RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — "Resource action,” which is IBM insider lingo for layoffs, is the hot topic among Big Blue employees as another quarterly earnings announcement approaches. However, Sam Palmisano, IBM’s top executive, is telling the incoming Barack Obama administration that investments in technology as part of an economic stimulus plan could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The mixed messages emerged Monday in media reports from New England to Wall Street. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night that Obama advisers asked Palmisano and IBM to research the number of new jobs investments that could be created in electronic medical records, broadband upgrades and smart-grid technology for utility firms.

Some 900,000, Big Blue said, according to the Journal. Given how many jobs the economy is shedding, the IBM report is good news for tech workers and the tech sector that will be looking to get its share of an Obama incentive plan.

That news surfaced after a New York newspaper and then IDG NewsService reported a surge in rumors about possible layoffs at IBM. The reports are coming at IBM employee-related Web sites. IBM is “no commenting” the reports, which is standard procedure. But the talk is that several thousands jobs could be cut later this month just as IBM goes public with its latest financials.

Would IBM hold off on any major cuts were the new president to follow through on pledges to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into IT infrastructure projects?

IBM’s Chris Caine, who is vice president for governmental programs, told the Journal that the Obama request triggered work in previously unexplored territory.

"There are lots of econometrics on the number of jobs from traditional infrastructure investments," Caine said. "There aren’t any metrics for these kinds of calculations."

Tech workers can find reason to hope in the IBM data. Will Washington follow through?