The Economic Impact of Technology-Based Industries in Washington State

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The Economic Impact of Technology-Based Industries in Washington State

William B. Beyers

Department of Geography

University of Washington

Seattle, WA 98195

May 2010

A Report Prepared for the

Technology Alliance

Seattle, WA

Executive Summary

Technology-based industries continue to be at the forefront of the development of the Washington economy. They account for the largest share of employment, business activity, and labor income of any major sector in the state’s economic base. Other key industries include natural resource-based sectors such as agriculture and food products, forest products, and services including tourism and transportation.

This study defines technology-based businesses as those with a strong proportion of their labor force in research and development (R&D) related occupations. This definition is consistent with recent analyses by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of measures of “high-tech” industries. In this study, the industries considered to be technology-based or “high-tech” have, with limited exceptions, at least 15.6% of their employment in R&D related occupations, equivalent to twice the state average for all industries. In Washington State in 2009, technology-based industries had an average of 42% of their employment in these occupations. In other industries just 3% of employment was in these occupations.
State of Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) data benchmarked against the last half of the year 2008 and the first half of the year 2009 (herein after referred to as the year 2009) were used to estimate employment industries included in this study. These industries employed 381,546 people in Washington State in the year 2009 (this includes estimates of university and federal research employees; it excludes self-employed people not covered by the ESD). Through multiplier effects, a total of 1.21 million jobs were created due to technology-based industries, which is 41.7% of total covered (non-proprietor) employment in Washington State. Similar percentages of overall Washington State business activity (sales, labor income, and tax revenues) are associated with the industries included in this study.
Economic impacts of industries included in this study are relatively high due to the wages paid in these industries. Technology-based industries support an average of 3.17 jobs for each direct wage and salary job, compared to 2.84 jobs for all industries. Labor income (wages and salaries, supplements to wage and salaries, and proprietors’ income) in technology industries averaged $110,145 in 2009, a figure 91% above the state average of $57,654. Technology-based businesses contribute strongly to the export-base of Washington State, as 75% of their sales are out-of-state, compared to an economy-wide average of 40%.
There has been rapid growth in technology-based industries compared to overall economic activity. Employment has expanded from 96,000 private sector jobs in 1974 to 372,110 private sector jobs in 2009, an increase of 296%. This compares to statewide increase in covered employment of 210% over the same time period. In 2009 there were 9,436 public sector and Federal research related jobs in Washington State, bringing total technology-based employment to 381,546. Total technology based employment has grown from 6.7% to 13.2% of total state covered employment over the 1974-2009 time period, indicating that technology-based industries have made a growing contribution to the economic base of the state.
The concentration of technology-based industries in Washington State is well above the national average. Based on 2007 data, the latest year for which data are available to make national comparisons with the definitions of technology-based industry used in this study, Washington State has employment in these industries 37% above the national average. Our aerospace and software/computer services sectors are the primary contributors to this high index.
If we exclude aerospace – historically our largest technology-based industry and still our largest employer – Washington is 20% above the national average, up from 17% in 2005. Washington’s non-aerospace technology-based industries have grown in recent years at a faster pace than those of the nation as a whole. Waste remediation activity in Washington State has a concentration over twice the national average, largely due to activities at Hanford, while research and development has a concentration 40% above the national average. The concentration of technology based industries overall in Washington State increased slightly from the previous Technology Alliance economic impact study released in 2008, from 35% to 37% above the national average.
Research and development expenditures in Washington State, an important indicator of technology-based industry, outpaced the United States over the time since the last study. R&D activity in Washington State as a share of Gross State Product in 2004 was 4.9%, compared with the national average of 2.7%. We have especially strong receipts and expenditures by business and non-profits, while university and college research receipts are similar to the national average. Business accounts for the largest share of R&D dollars in Washington State (84% in 2007). Washington’s concentration of total R&D receipts places us 7th in the U.S. in terms of dollars received, and 4th when the size of R&D expenditures is indexed by Gross State Product. Washington’s concentration of business R&D and of federally funded research and development centers ranks 4th in the U.S., while we rank 5th in “other non-profits.” For comparison, Washington is the 13th most populous state in the United States.

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