High-Tech Jobs Stayed Resilient Amid Last Year’s National Job Losses, TechAmerica Says

4/28/10Follow @bvbigelow

The high-tech industry lost 245,600 jobs, or about 4 percent of the nationwide technology workforce, as the recession hit bottom last year, according a report being released today. But there are still jobs to be had in high-tech fields. Unemployment in several high-tech sectors remained below 5 percent at a time when overall unemployment soared above 9 percent nationwide, according to the 13th annual Cyberstates 2010 report issued by the TechAmerica Foundation.

All tech sectors lost jobs, but “even during the depths of the recession, most high-tech workers were still employed,” says Kevin Carroll, TechAmerica’s regional director for Southern California. The report, which relies on the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, covers tech employment nationwide in 2009—and provides state-by-state information on employment, wages, and other data in 2008.

Considering all that has happened to the economy over the past year, Carroll acknowledges that the 2008 data for California and other states is too outdated to provide many insights. But he says a few points are worth extracting from the 2009 data:

—The four main components of the high-tech industry—manufacturing, communications services, software services, and engineering and tech services—all lost jobs in 2009.

—Software services experienced the smallest decline nationwide, losing 20,700 jobs in 2009. That’s about one percent of the 1.7 million software jobs that existed in the previous year.

—Communication services lost 53,000 jobs nationwide last year. That represents a 3.9 percent decline from a year earlier, when the sector had 1.36 million jobs.

—High-tech manufacturing showed the biggest job losses, as the sector shed 112,600 workers last year, declining almost 8.1 percent from 1.39 million in 2008 to nearly 1.28 million last year. Two sub-categories accounted for more than half the total: Electronic components manufacturing lost 37,100 jobs (a 14 percent decline from the prior year) and semiconductor manufacturing fell by 25,400 jobs (down 11 percent ). Space and defense systems manufacturing showed the smallest decline, losing just 1,200 jobs nationwide last year.

Carroll says anecdotal information he’s collected from local companies suggests that San Diego’s technology community was insulated from the worst of the job cuts due to its regional concentration in software, communications, and defense employers. “I think when we get the regional data—and we’re still about six months away from the Cybercities report—we’ll see that San Diego did OK,” Carroll says.

Maybe.

San Diego was also highly exposed to the real estate collapse.Overall employment in San Diego County soared to 11 percent in March—a record in this recession. The jobless rate also continued to climb statewide, with unemployment in California hitting 12.6 percent last month, even though the state added about 4,200 jobs (after adjusting for seasonal hiring).

As The San Diego Union-Tribune recently noted, California is currently tied with Rhode Island with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate—behind Michigan at 14.1 percent and Nevada at 13.4 cent.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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