- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Every state in the nation, for the first time, has increased its high-technology work force, according to a survey to be released today.

"This is the first time in the 1990s that all 50 states and the District added high-tech jobs. It shows that the growth is a national phenomenon, not just something occurring in Silicon Valley," said William T. Archey, president of the American Electronics Association, the industry group releasing the report on work-force statistics.

U.S. high-tech employment jumped 32 percent from 1993 to 1999, growing from 3.8 million to 5 million. High-tech companies employed 4.8 million workers in 1998.

With 55,222 workers, the software services industry in Virginia has grown to become the nation's second-largest. Only California's software industry, with 149,388 workers, had more employees.

Maryland's leading high-tech sector also was software services, with 35,406 workers, the fifth-highest total.

Nationally, the software and computer-related services jobs combined increased from 890,000 in 1993 to 1.8 million by the end of last year. In the electronics group's report, software and computer-related services jobs include computer programming, software design, data processing and computer maintenance.

The need for those workers "is not going to slow at all. Computer systems aren't programming themselves," said Dick Hart, employment manager at Arlington, Va.-based software developer CACI International, which employs 4,800 people nationally, up from 3,800 at the end of 1998.

The growth in the number of high-tech workers is being driven not only by the growth of the Internet, but also by more traditional companies like banks embracing technology to improve operations, said Katherine Clark, chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and chief executive of software developer Landmark Systems Corp.

"There are more people in those companies focused on using and implementing technology than there used to be. Technology has become more strategic to the growth of average companies," Mrs. Clark said.

With 5 million workers, the technology industry is the nation's third-largest employer. The construction industry employed 6.2 million people and the financial services industry employed 5.9 million people last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

High wages also helped fuel the nation's high-tech employment growth.

It also has emphasized the disparity in pay between technology-industry workers and people in other professions.

The average annual salary for high-tech workers reached $57,701 in 1998, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the study by the AEA, which represents 3,200 U.S.-based technology companies.

Workers outside the technology industry had average annual wages in 1998 of $31,722 a difference of 81 percent.

In Virginia, the difference between high-tech salaries and compensation for those in other jobs was 114 percent. Virginia's high-tech workers earned an average of $66,002, the fourth-highest average wage for tech workers in the nation, and workers in all other private-sector jobs earned an average annual wage of $30,917.

Washington state, home of computer giant Microsoft Corp., recorded the nation's highest annual wage for tech workers with an average salary of $105,700.

Tech workers in the District earned an average of $60,238, and Maryland tech workers earned an average of $58,942.

"One of the reasons that high tech is the kind of industry everyone wants in their state is because of the salaries. These jobs bring in a great deal of money," Mr. Archey said.

The electronics group does not expect the growth of high-tech jobs to slow. The association said 2 million more high-tech jobs will be created by 2008.

The growth in jobs also has exposed the need for even more workers.

Mr. Archey said the number of unfilled high-tech jobs could be as high as 700,000.

The Information Technology Association of America, a District of Columbia-based trade association, estimated last month there will be a demand for 1.6 million information-technology jobs over the next 12 months, but that 850,000 of them won't be filled because not enough workers are qualified.

The association-defined information-technology jobs include Web development, technical support, programming, network design and digital media positions.

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