Midwest lagging rest of U.S. on measures of high-tech employment
Between 2003 and 2008, the Midwest shed high-tech jobs and lagged the nation as a whole in creating high-tech firms, a concerning trend for policymakers who have pinned hopes for their state’s economic future on expanding this industry sector.
The data, part of the National Science Foundation’s “Science and Engineering Indicators 2012” report, capture a tumultuous economic period in the nation, particularly the Great Recession that began in late 2007. But the statistics also show how this region is faring compared to the rest of the country.
Most states in the Midwest, for example, have smaller high-tech economic sectors than the U.S. as a whole: In only Illinois and Minnesota do high-tech firms make up a relatively large share of total businesses.
A few states in the region, though, did experience impressive growth in the high-tech sector over the period studied in the report. In Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, the number of high-tech businesses increased by more than 15 percent, compared to a national rise of less than 10 percent. The rise in high-tech firms, however, did not necessarily translate into a much of a net increase in state jobs in this sector, if at all (see map).
States continue to pursue strategies that target growth in this sector, because it has high growth potential, attracts highly skilled workers and fosters innovation.
Examples of state efforts include Ohio’s $2.3 billion Third Frontier program, a bond initiative that invests in new technology-based products, companies and industries. Michigan’s $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund supports small businesses in areas such as advanced manufacturing, alternative energy and the life sciences. Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, meanwhile, have begun programs to promote university-led research and commercialization, and Nebraska has launched a small-business grant program to help support innovation.
The hope for states is that these investments pay off with the creation of lasting businesses and jobs in an ever-increasingly competitive global economy.
The NSF study shows, for example, that from 2000 to 2010, more than one-quarter of U.S. high-tech manufacturing jobs were lost. Also, the U.S. share of high-tech exports fell about a third between 1998 and 2010, while in a similar time frame, China’s share nearly quadrupled, making it the new world leader in high-tech trade.