Market surges, Gates predicts 9% unemployment ... and you're overworked

Bill Gates

Yesterday's 11% surge on Wall Street is gathering most of the headlines this morning -- and any good news on the economy is welcome news -- but there is clearly a risk of putting too much stock in any single indicator.

As a counterweight, industry leaders speaking at a Harvard Business School symposium yesterday warned that the ongoing economic turmoil is likely to morph into an unemployment crisis that Microsoft's Bill Gates, for one, predicted could push the jobless rate above 9% for the first time in a quarter century.

Moreover, life promises to be no bed of roses for those who do manage to hang on to their jobs, particularly in the IT field, according to experts interviewed last week by Network World.

From this morning's Boston Globe:

"Consumer sentiment has never been so low," Gates said, despite the efforts in Washington and other world capitals to get credit flowing. "So no matter how quickly this gets fixed, you're still going to have an economic cycle with a fairly significant recession."

Gates was one of several speakers who addressed the risks of the spreading economic turmoil at a long-planned event that had been intended to celebrate Harvard's contributions to management education over the past 100 years. Coming in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, however, much of the talk centered on the fallout.

"Little did we imagine two years ago when we began planning this event what the world would look like today," Harvard Business School dean Jay O. Light said in his opening remarks.

Even mighty Cisco finds itself cutting jobs.

And where companies do not trim staff, the economic difficulties are likely to result in expanded roles and workloads for those who do remain employed. From Monday's story in Network World headlined: "Economic crisis means double duty for IT pros."

"For the average company, the trend is a lot of caution going forward. There is too much uncertainty around the bailout and the national election for IT leaders to be confident in new investments," says John Estes, a vice president with IT staffing and consulting firm Robert Half Technology. ...

"No one is losing a job necessarily, but everyone is tight now so we are trying to get more out of the staff we have," says Bruce Meyer, director of network services at ProMedica Healthcare in Toledo, Ohio. "Consolidating this Layer 1 functionality -- a jack is a jack and cable is cable and it's all in the same closet now -- prevents us from having two people doing the same thing and adds more efficiency to our staff."

A survey cited in that story reports 6 in 10 IT executives are re-evaluating 2009 budgets and putting non-essential projects on hold.

Care to look at the bright side? Gartner says this mess isn't going to be as bad for the IT sector as the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2001.

Feeling better now?

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