September 8, 2004 -- Jobless claims may have surged in August, but at least one sector is shedding fewer jobs.

According to a survey of technology companies by Aon Consulting, layoffs were at a two-year low in the second quarter of this year, with fewer than 20 percent of employers having shed jobs. Furthermore, of the more than 950 companies tapped for the survey, nearly one-third said they had returned to what they called "normal hiring levels."

While the company did not explain the increase, Aon did caution that tech firms needed to retain their skilled workers now that hiring has picked up.

"With the decline of layoffs and thawing of salary freezes, many companies are now looking to new realities of retaining key performers, who may be in jeopardy as hiring resumes," says John Radford, senior vice president of Radford Surveys, the division of Aon Consulting that performed the survey.

In fact, an earlier study found that IT workers were in a strong position, with employers reporting salary levels for this group a full 20 percent higher than other employees.

However, the study, by research firm META Group, also found that 72 percent of responding companies said low IT worker morale was a serious issue, despite this factor.

Many companies were monitoring employee sentiment, if not addressing it, according to the survey. Employee satisfaction surveys were conducted at 68 percent of the companies and 38 percent used performance reviews to get feedback.

Popular strategies to combat malaise were employee recognition and skill development programs, while only 4 percent offered spot monetary incentives.