While demand for wireless devices is growing, wireless-industry workers have seen the number of available jobs nosedive, reports yesterday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
Citing stats from earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Journal noted that jobs at wireless carriers in the U.S. sunk to a 12-year low of 166,600, around 20,000 fewer than when the recession officially ended two years ago. At the same time, the wireless companies themselves have seen their collective sales grow by 28 percent since 2006.
Despite the huge sales growth and healthy demand for products, the loss of jobs stems from several factors, the Journal notes. Industry consolidation, outsourcing, and gains in productivity have combined to reduce the number of workers needed. Even salespeople and call center workers haven't seen much job growth.
Sprint laid off thousands of workers in 2008 and 2009 and reduced the number of its call centers over the past few years. The company told the Journal that simpler phones and plans have cut the number of phone calls needed to customer service centers.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which have kept their headcounts about the same, also cited productivity improvements as a key factor in reducing the need for more sales personnel and customer service reps.
Concerns have also been raised about potential job losses in the industry should the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile receive regulatory approval. In May, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson acknowledged to Congress that the merger would result in some short-term layoffs as a result of redundant positions but claimed that ultimately the deal would create more jobs.