Start Your Engines

The global downturn is over. It will take time for jobs to resurface, but all indicators are pointing in the right direction.


For all intents and purposes, the downturn appears to be over. Like the California drought, it takes time to refill the reservoirs, but at least the economic base level is rising.

All of the leading indicators in the semiconductor market point upward and to the right. iSuppli reports that distributor inventories are below average, which is particularly interesting given that the electronics content of devices has been increasing steadily. It’s cheaper, after all, to design in an electronic component than to build a mechanical one, something that should become even more obvious once the automobile market begins rebounding.

That’s also evident in iSuppi’s prediction for the semiconductor equipment sector, which it expects to grow about 47% in 2010. Given the steady rise in foundry capacity utilization, that’s a strong indication of how the market is expected to play out over the next couple of years.

Overall market projections for growth on a global base seem to support this. The Economist’s economic indicators show all major economies are poised for GDP growth in 2010, with China leading the pack at 8.6% and the United States following at 2.8%. Both Europe and Japan will show slight growth, but at least it will be in positive territory. Equally important, inflation is predicted to stay well behind those numbers, as well, leading to a net positive growth across most of the world’s economic engines.

The big sticking point remains jobs. For highly skilled engineers jobs are still available, although in some cases actually taking a job may require relocation. In the case of a low-power engineer, that relocation may be to a place like Japan or Europe. In the case of an RTL engineer, it may be India or China. The recovery so far seems to have left many others stranded, waiting for companies to become comfortable enough with growth projections to begin the hiring process again.

The good news is that by this time next year it’s unlikely we’ll have time to reflect on just how nasty a global downturn can be. And that will be a very good thing, indeed.

Ed Sperling