Florida loses 10,000 tech jobs, slips to No. 5 and passed in ranks by Virginia

OCTOBER 06, 2011

Cyberstate report: Florida loses 10,000 tech jobs, slips to No. 5 and passed in ranks by Virginia


cyberstates2011_cover.jpgWake up and good morning. In the rankings of states with high technology employment, Florida dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 after being passed by Virginia. So says the new annual Cyberstates 2011 report by the TechAmerica Foundation, citing a loss in Florida of 10,000 high-tech jobs between 2009 and 2010. Here’s the report’s executive summary.

Some context: The U.S. high-tech industry lost 115,800 jobs in 2010, for a total of 5.75 million workers. That means 9 percent of the high-tech jobs lost in that year were in Florida. Nasty.

Virginia lost 2,800 high tech jobs, less than a third of Florida’s losses but apparently a strong enough showing to grab the No. 4 position from the far larger Sunshine State. The ranking now of the top 5 states: California, Texas, New York, Virginia and Florida.

(Virginia, let’s be clear, enjoys being adjacent to and serving as a major suburban beneficiary of the nation’s capital, where the recession is barely felt and where high-tech companies (especially defense-related businesses) cluster to feed at the federal trough. Here’s a Washington Post story detailing Virginia’s ascent in the Cyberstates ranking.)

I’m disappointed, of course, to see Florida losing high-tech job momentum. And a little surprised. When I go to technology gatherings in the Tampa Bay area, the biggest complaint I hear is how area tech companies cannot find people with the right kind and quality of skills needed. I don’t hear much about downsizing.

(Maybe things are slightly better in 2011 than the 2009-2010 era the report mentions? A 2011 midyear jobs report from the same organization, based on a different monthly data set from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that between January and June 2011, the tech industry added a net 115,000 jobs. But how Florida is doing in 2011 is not specified.)

Here’s one reaction to the news that Florida is now the 5th ranked cyberstate employing 267,500 workers in 2010.

“The technology sector remains critical to Florida’s economy, though we slipped from the 4th to the 5th cyberstate by tech employment in 2010,” Todd Rader, CEO of Avancent Consulting in Winter Park, states in a Cyberstates release. “We should be concerned by this and try to reverse that trend.”

Here’s the Duh! line from Rader that Florida still can’t seem to properly grasp. “State leaders need to invest in math and science education and promote tax policy that encourages businesses to locate in the Sunshine State.  And our national leaders need to open foreign markets to U.S. tech products – an issue critical to Florida’s trade-dependent economy.”

So what is Florida good at in the technology scene? It ranks among the top four in space and defense systems manufacturing, photonics (light/laser) manufacturing, Internet and telecommunications services, engineering services, and computer training. 

More highlights from the Cyberstates report about Florida:

* Weak concentration: High-tech firms employed 44 of every 1,000 private sector workers in 2010, ranked 26th nationwide.

* High wages for Florida, but low for the industry: High-tech workers earned an average wage of $69,500 (32rd ranked), or 77 percent more than Florida’s average private sector wage.

* Behind other big states in payroll: A high-tech payroll of $18.6 billion in 2010, ranked 8th nationwide.

* More firms but smaller: 24,900 high-tech establishments in 2010, ranked 3rd nationwide.

* How Florida ranks by sectors: 1st in computer training employment with 1,700 jobs; 2nd in space and defense systems (though the NASA downsizing may affect this) manufacturing employment with 15,500 jobs; 3rd in Internet and telecommunications services employment with 77,600 jobs; and 4th in engineering services employment with 49,000 jobs.

— Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

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