- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The Washington region has the fourth-highest number of technology jobs in the nation, according to a new study to be released today from the high-tech trade association AeA and the Nasdaq stock market.

Washington-area tech companies employed 177,700 workers at the end of 1998, fewer than San Jose, Calif., Boston and Chicago, according to data the two groups compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 1998 data is the most recent information available.

Even though it finished fourth in the total number of tech jobs, Washington led the nation in software services jobs positions that include packaged software, computer programming and systems integration with 70,400 workers at the end of 1998.

"It's a hot area, and if you're making the right software, it's going to stay hot," said Greg Owens, president and chief executive of Manugistics Group Inc., the Rockville company that makes software that businesses use to manage inventory.

Mr. Owens attributed much of the growth in the number of jobs at the area's software-services companies to the federal government, a huge purchaser of computer programming and systems integration services.

The new study by Nasdaq and the AeA, formerly the American Electronics Association, compares 60 U.S. cities based on wages and the number of tech jobs and companies in each city.

Baltimore employed 38,289 high-tech workers, placing it 31st on the list.

Nationally, companies added 1.1 million tech jobs from 1993 to 1998.

The increase in tech jobs cited by the study does not include job cuts that have occurred throughout the year caused by failing Internet companies and cutbacks at others.

Since December 1999, dot-com companies nationally have laid off 31,056 workers, said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

That is a sliver of the 4.8 million tech jobs nationwide, according to the study's conclusions. The technology industry overall has remained vibrant, creating new jobs at a faster rate than it has cut positions.

"Technology is going to continue to be a great growth area. There may be contractions here and there, and we may see some slowdown in the growth rate, but it will continue to generate jobs," Mr. Challenger said.

That trend manifests itself locally. Even while local companies like Sandbox.com, a Reston company that markets lotteries and fantasy sports games, and OneSoft Corp., a McLean e-commerce software firm, cut jobs, overall growth continues.

"Geeks want to be where other geeks are," AeA President and Chief Executive William T. Archey said.

Washington-area companies added 46,400 jobs between 1993 and 1998, the study said.

That's because companies still are trying to fill information technology jobs software development and network integration said Rima Assaker, editor of ITRecruitermag.com, a McLean-based magazine.

The Washington area's standing as the fourth-leading tech city will become fodder for recruiters trying to fill those vacancies, Ms. Assaker said.

"If I was a recruiter, I would definitely use that statistic as a tool. You can compare it to working in the investment industry and living in New York City or working in the film industry and living in Hollywood," she said.

Even though the tech industry has grown to make the Washington area the nation's fourth-leading employer of tech professionals, the federal government remains the top industry, employing an estimated 326,000 people.

While the AeA and Nasdaq stand by their data, a 1998 report by management consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers concluded area systems integrations and computing companies employed a combined 224,000 persons.

Mr. Archey said the AeA-Nasdaq data is conservative and probably underestimates the real number of tech jobs by about 4 percent. The differences are likely from the methods each group used to define tech jobs. Whatever the case, the tech industry is surging, said Carl Silvestri, PriceWaterhouseCoopers director of marketing.

"We've seen tremendous growth," Mr. Silvestri said.

The Washington region had the second-highest number of tech companies in the United States with 7,282. Only Boston, with 7,348 companies, had more high-tech companies.

The Washington region ranked just seventh in wages, and tech workers earned an average annual wage in 1998 of $70,038. Buoyed by Microsoft Corp., Seattle-area companies ranked first in average annual wages, paying workers an annual wage of $129,259.

Baltimore ranked 25th, and companies there paid high-tech workers an average yearly wage of $57,780.

The average annual wage for Washington-area tech workers was 81 percent higher than the $38,680 earned annually by all other workers in the region with jobs in the private sector.

The U.S. average salary for tech workers in 1998 was $57,701. The U.S. average wage for all workers with private-sector jobs in 1998 was $31,722 82 percent less than the average salary for tech workers.

The Washington area is the third-worst region in terms of commuting, and drivers have an average daily commute of nearly 29 minutes, according to the report. In addition, the median housing price of $176,500 is the 15th highest among the 60 tech cities studied.

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