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April 2002     Vol. 3, no. 4

High-tech boom and bust

Geoff Bowlby and Stéphanie Langlois

  • Following very strong growth of 49% between 1996 and 2000, computer and telecommunications (CT) employment tumbled from its peak in March 2001. By the last quarter of the year, 608,000 people were employed in CT, down 5% from a year earlier. Had it not been for a large drop in CT manufacturing employment (-23%), CT employment would have managed to show a small increase over 2001.
  • While CT employment fell 35,000 in 2001, the non-CT sectors of the economy registered a net gain of 101,000 jobs from the last quarter of 2000 to the same quarter a year later. Thus, even though the CT sector accounted for only a small proportion of total employment (4%), it wiped out over a third of the net gains registered by other sectors of the economy.
  • The high-tech layoffs and hiring freezes hit some communities more than others in 2001. Of the four centres with the most CT employment (Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa-Gatineau and Vancouver), Ottawa-Gatineau was the most affected-down 15% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, much more than Toronto (-9%), Vancouver (-6%), or Montréal (-1%).
  • Women were most affected by the high-tech woes in 2001. For them, the decline in CT employment (-20,000) was much greater than that for men (-14,000), even though almost two-thirds of all CT workers were men.
  • During the 1997 to 2000 period, employers raced to hire highly qualified CT professionals, doubling the number of university-educated workers. While the highly educated reaped the benefits of the high-tech boom, they also suffered more than those with less formal education during the bust of 2001.


Geoff Bowlby is with Labour Statistics Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-3325 or

Stéphanie Langlois is with Small Business and Special Surveys Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-6862 or

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