Reading The Jobs Outlook Like Tea Leaves

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IBM announces layoffs, and that doesn't sound good.

HP announces job cuts, and that doesn't seem encouraging.

So what, then, to make of today's news out of the U.S. Labor Department that jobs are still being created at a brisk pace?

Well, at the blog The Big Picture, the response was a hearty "Huzzah," where recent down numbers in the economy have been described as a temporary "soft patch."

If you take a look at the, well, big picture, there's plenty to give the IBM and HP job cuts more perspective. According to this research from the AeA (formerly known as the American Electronics Association), the high-tech job bloodbath reached its height between 2001 and 2002 and returned to near stability last year. (The industry shed a whopping 1 million jobs in 2001 and 2002, which dwarfs the recent HP and IBM job cut numbers.)

And what do IBM and HP have in common? Well, both companies are undergoing what appears to be painful restructuring. (IBM just completed punting its PC business over to Lenovo, while HP is still dealing with ripple effects of one layoff in particular - that of former CEO Carly Fiorina.)

The markers at IBM and HP point to each of those company's layoffs as signs of their own instability rather than the tech market's as a whole.

That might not be enough for everybody to offer a "Huzzah" to today's Labor Department jobs report. But for others, it's close enough to let them get back to work without looking over their shoulders.

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