The number of high-tech layoffs slowed sharply in the second quarter, but through six months of 2009 the job picture looks as grim as it did in 2002 as fallout from the “dot com” and telecom busts devastated the tech sector.

That’s the news from outplacement consulting firm

Through June, high-tech firms slashed payrolls by more than 118,000 – the highest since the fourth quarter of 2002, Challenger reported Monday.

However, the number of job cuts did drop 60 percent to 33,891 from some 84,000 in the first three months of the year.

IBM, Sony Ericsson, Nortel, Lenovo, NetApp and Dell are among high-tech firms that have cut jobs in North Carolina.

However, Cisco, which trimmed some jobs earlier this year, recently told Local Tech Wire its headcount at 4,500, including contractors, is basically the same as a year ago at its Triangle campus.

Reflecting the tough job picture, recent monthly job openings reports from the North Carolina Technology Association and SkillProof remain at minimal levels compared to a year ago.

Telecom sector cuts numbered 1,876 in the second quarter compared to 18,972 in the first quarter.

The computer sector cut 19,881 between April and June, down from 31,580 in January-March.

Electronics firms sliced 12,134 in the second quarter, dipping from 33,665 in the opening quarter.

So why do the telecom and electronics sectors appear to be fairing better?

"Telecom and electronics firms appear to be benefiting from a recession-defying wireless market,” IDG News Service quoted Challenger Chief Executive Officer John Challenger as saying.

“Computer firms may lag as companies wait for more proof of recovery before they begin to reignited investments in new technologies, but the end of the recession should bring a flood of new spending in this area," he added. "Some firms may even begin to invest early, in the hopes the productivity-enhancing technology can temper the need to recruit new workers."