San Diego Life Sciences Strengthened in Recession, Outpacing Nation

2/1/12Follow @bvbigelow

Employment in San Diego’s life sciences sector grew by 15 percent over the past two years, as biopharmas, medical device companies, and other employers added roughly 5,550 jobs here—raising employment in the sector to 41,937 in 2011, according to a report released today by Biocom. The report says overall employment in San Diego increased by 1.1 percent over the same period, gaining about 20,600 jobs to reach 1.83 million in 2011.

The 40-page economic study says San Diego’s life sciences cluster also is expected to outpace the nation in terms of job growth and economic impact over the next two years, as another 2,770 jobs are added by 2013. A broader snapshot that includes life sciences companies in neighboring Orange, Riverside, and Imperial Counties projects the region will add more than 6,000 workers over the next two years.

Despite a significant decline in venture capital funding, the report says the four-county region of Southern California will continue to retain its high standing and competitive advantage in the life sciences. By 2013, there will be 70 percent more jobs in the life sciences in these four counties than the national average.

While venture capital funding is a key indicator of entrepreneurial activity and business formation, the report says the sharp decline in Southern California VC investments, from $1.1 billion in 2007 to $553 million in 2010, reflects the severe economic downturn and other industry trends underway nationwide.

San Diego’s strength was especially apparent in federal funding for biomedical research. Of the top 10 research institutions receiving National Institutes of Health grants in 2011, nine are in San Diego. The $835 million in grants awarded last year to San Diego scientists accounted for more than 85 percent of the grants allocated in the four-county region.

The report says the four-county life sciences cluster comprises more than 3,500 companies and employs over 97,000 people. On average, salaries range between $54,141 and $116,462, well above the national and regional averages. Including direct, indirect, and induced employment, the report says this region supports a total of 248,800 jobs that pay over $17.7 billion in wages and generate $57 billion in economic activity.

San Diego County alone accounts for 1,700 companies that employ 41,937 people. Including direct, indirect, and induced job, San Diego’s industry supports more than 106,000 jobs that pay $7.5 billion in wages and generate roughly $22 billion in overall economic activity. A .pdf file of the full report can be downloaded here.

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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