High-tech industries have held up better than most during the economic slump, but the outlook this year isn’t rosy, according to a national tech-employment study by TechAmerica, an industry trade group.
Nationwide, the tech sector sustained only a .6 percent drop in employment in fourth quarter of 2008, compared with a decline of 1.3 percent in total private-sector employment, said the Cyberstates 2009 report released Tuesday.
In total, the sector actually added 77,000 net jobs in 2008, to reach 5.92 million, which was a slower rate of growth than each of the three previous years.
But the industry’s winning streak is in jeopardy this year, conceded Christopher Hansen, chief executive of TechAmerica.
“Our industry has weathered the storm longer than most, but recent announcements of job cuts at technology companies suggest that a fifth straight year of growth is at best questionable,” he said.
Hansen said, however, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the federal stimulus package — offers hope with its emphasis on new technologies to modernize infrastructure, education and health systems and to build a more efficient electric grid.
The study also provides high-tech employment data broken down by states, but those numbers are for 2007, the latest year that state information is available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2007 Arizona’s tech employment declined by 900 jobs, just under 1 percent, to 116,000, the report said.
The jobs that remained were high paying, averaging $75,900, or 85 percent more than the state’s average private sector wage.
Some segments of Arizona’s high-tech economy are continuing to fare well, said Jim Garnett, executive director of TechAmerica Southwest.
“I have no hard and fast facts, but I don’t think that Arizona is doing as badly as some states,” he said. Semiconductor manufacturing appears to be suffering the largest job losses, but software development and information technology services seem to be holding up, he said.
“When the economy goes into a slump, companies often look to service providers to save costs and generate revenue,” he said.
Despite the weakness in manufacturing, Arizona remains an important location for the semiconductor industry, employing 22,600 workers in 2007, the fourth-highest in the nation, the report said. But the state lost 1,300 semiconductor jobs between 2006 and 2007.
Offsetting the loss in semiconductors were gains in engineering services (2,600 jobs) and computer systems design and services (2,300 jobs).
A high-tech payroll of $8.8 billion in 2007 ranked 18th in the nation.
In addition to ranking fourth in semiconductor manufacturing, Arizona ranked sixth in defense electronics with 84,000 jobs and eighth in photonics (optics and lasers) manufacturing with 1,000 jobs.