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Telecom suffers and shrinks

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Monday, December 01, 2008

PORTLAND The loss of 100 Oregon jobs from Denver-based Qwest, part of 1,200 jobs the telecom company said it would cut nationwide by year’s end, is another blow to an already shrinking job sector in Oregon.

The state reports that 300 telecom jobs have been lost this year, or 3.4% of that sector’s workforce. That figure includes 10 jobs cut by Metro One Telecommunications earlier this year.

The loss of telecom jobs doesn’t surprise Oregon state employment economist Art Ayre. In 2001 telecom jobs in the state peaked at 11,000, but since then have steadily declined to 8,500 in September of this year as new technologies enter the industry and providers become more labor efficient.

Ayre projects telecom jobs will grow at one-third the pace of overall job growth in the state through 2016 in part because wireless technology is less labor intensive than  maintaining landlines. Telecom employment nationwide is expected to grow at half the pace of all other industries. “When we look at the trends, we are expecting it to be a very weak sector in the state,” Ayre says.

Conventional land-line accounts are a significant part of Qwest’s revenue, but the number of those phone lines the company manages has dropped by almost 10% since this time last year as customers increasingly prefer wireless technology, says company spokeswoman Diane Reberger.

Qwest reported $3.4 billion in third-quarter revenue, a 1.6% decline from the same period last year. Profits nose-dived from the same period last year from $2.1 billion to $151 million, according to the company’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Revenue from voice services, the business segment landlines fall under, is down nearly 9%.

In response to changing customer demand, the company is ramping up its high-speed Internet services to compete with cable providers, says Reberger. She declined to say how and when the lost jobs might return to the state.

The Oregon job cuts will be spread throughout all operations of the business and be completed by the end of the year, with about 50 coming from Portland.                 


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