Compiled By Jill Jusko The number of engineering jobs in the United States has dropped below 2 million for the first time in five years, and the technical professional association that represents the discipline isn't sure why. The good news for engineers is that the unemployment rate in their profession dropped for the first time since early 2001, from 4% in the second quarter of 2002 to 3.2% in the third quarter, according to U.S. Department of Labor. The bad news is that the total number of engineering jobs dropped from 2,027,000 to 1,923,000. "The very significant decline in the number of engineering jobs is a major concern for all of us," says LeEarl Bryant, president of IEEE-USA, an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Washington, D.C. "We're not sure if these jobs will return when the economy turns up, or if they've been exported to lower-cost overseas locations." Mechanical engineers were the hardest hit of all the engineering disciplines, notes IEEE-USA, losing 49,000 jobs. Aerospace engineers lost 26,000 jobs.