NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In just the first six months of this year, more than 48,000 jobs have been cut in the technology sector – nearly as many as the total layoffs announced for all of 2013, and a whopping 68% more than the comparable period last year. And this doesn't count the 18,000 headcount reduction in the works at Microsoft. At this rate, tech jobs lost this year are likely to be the highest since 2009.

Time to pack up the beanbags and forget the free lunches, tech is done, right?

"Oddly, the rise in technology sector job cuts is occurring at a time when the economy is finally starting to regain some of its former glory. However, increased job cutting is not always a sign of an industry in decline," says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Technology is, in fact, one of the bright spots of the economy. Many employers are actually having difficulty finding technology workers with in-demand skills. Many of the job cuts we are seeing are more indicative of an industry in transition than of one in decline."

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The firm reports the heaviest job cuts in the tech sector has originated from computer firms, which announced just over 30,000 planned layoffs during the first six months of the year. Hewlett-Packard alone accounted for more than half of that total, with plans to reduce headcount by as many as 16,000, as the company adjusts for lower consumer demand for personal computers and printers.

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"The technology sector is stronger than ever, but it has always been an area of frequent and rapid change," says Challenger. "Computers are being replaced by smartphones and hard drives are being supplanted by cloud-based servers. Furthermore, tech jobs, going forward, will not necessarily be confined to technology firms; the biggest growth will be in industries such as health care, manufacturing, automotive and retail."

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Meanwhile, technology job cuts in the telecommunications industry increased 342% from last year, to 13,044 in the first half of this year. The electronics industry also accelerated the reduction of its cube population in the first six months of this year, up 43% from a year ago to 5,356 from 3,739.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet