Quick. Name the state that created the most tech jobs in 2010.
Far from the corporate campuses of Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128 corridor, today’s hot-in-tech honor goes straight to the heart of the Midwest and to one-time Rust Belt manufacturing king, Michigan, a state that has faced tough economic times over the past decade and is battling to reinvent its economic future.
In 2010, Michigan saw an increase of 2,700 tech jobs. The No. 2 contender, the District of Columbia, added 1,400 jobs. West Virginia and Utah, were next, both with 400 jobs. And South Carolina, with 300 new positions, rounded out the top five.
The gains came at a time of struggle for both the tech sector and the U.S. economy in general. Nationally, the economy shed about 115,800 tech positions last year while the national jobless rate never dipped below 9.4 percent.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the national jobless rate for September was 9.1 percent - no change from the previous month. Despite the technology gains, Michigan’s overall unemployment rate at 11.2 percent is the third-highest in the country, below only Nevada and California.
The tech-job-growth rankings were published this week in the 14th annual “Cyberstates 2011” report using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study was conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based TechAmerica Foundation, which has called for increased investment in technological research, math and science education, tax system reform and opening new markets to expand U.S. trade abroad.
“This helps to elevate the narrative,” said Joseph Serwach, spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., when asked about the tech numbers.
“A lot of people, when they think of Michigan, their history is a little dated. But weve got auto companies that hire technical people. The universities put out a lot of computer science majors. Weve got a lot of engineers in the state, and it all goes back to the auto industry because that is what cars are - just giant machines filled with all sorts of technical devices.”
Mr. Serwach, who noted efforts by the administration of new Gov. Rick Snyder to invest in international workers and entrepreneurship, said the latest TechAmerica survey shows a trend line of growth that they have tracked over the past year.
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “We’ve been seeing this kind of data for a while and we are thrilled. Obviously, we hit bottom in June 2009 when General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt. We’ve been coming back every since then and there has been a lot of investment in the state. People see us as a great value, and more jobs are coming here now.”
This year’s TechAmerica survey offered a brighter economic outlook than in years past. It found that job losses for the nation’s tech sector were on the decline. While the industry did lose jobs in 2010, the 2 percent decline was less than half the 249,500 jobs that were lost in 2009. From 2007 to 2010, the tech industry overall outpaced the private sector as a whole, with employment declining 4 percent in the tech sector compared with 7 percent overall.
“Of the four high-tech sectors highlighted in our report, only software services added jobs in 2010 - 22,800, a 1 percent gain,” said TechAmerica Foundation Chairman Robert F. Bennett. “Of the jobs lost, 72,100 were in communications services, 53,600 were in tech manufacturing, and 12,900 were in engineering and tech services. Fortunately, the initial numbers for 2011 look more promising in terms of job growth.”