While startups scramble to hire the best engineers, tech workers at many companies this year have received the dreaded — and perhaps unexpected — pink slip.

Survey results show that layoffs at tech companies in the first half of 2012 are at their highest point in three years, totalling 51,529 job cuts between January and June.

In the same time period one year ago, around 14,000 jobs were cut, making this year’s figure a 260 percent increase in tech jobs lost and a 39 percent increase compared to the total number of jobs cut in all of 2011.

Computer companies cut 34,380 positions, and telecommunications companies slashed 13,059 jobs.

“While consumers and businesses are spending more on technology, the spending appears to favor a handful of companies,” said Challenger, Gray, & Christmas CEO John Challenger in a statement today.

“Those that are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing trends and consumer tastes are shuffling workers to new projects or laying them off, altogether.”

Challenger, Gray, & Christmas specializes in corporate downsizing or “outplacement,” as the firm so euphemistically puts it. It released a report on the job cuts today. According to the report, many of these jobs were at HP, which saw a massive workforce cut this spring — as many as 30,000 employees. These five-figure firings have also been seen in companies in the book-selling and baking industries.

Joining HP in the restructuring are:

Image courtesy of Andrey Popov, Shutterstock