The tech sector in Austin looks different than it did in the boom days of 2001. But, as Dan Zehr writes in the Austin American-Statesman, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, there are fewer tech jobs in the Central Texas metro today than 12 years ago — 7,700 fewer, according to detailed data that EMSI provided to the Statesman — but Austin has a more stable and diversified group of high-tech industries.
Working with EMSI and a group of business and economic development experts, the Statesman analyzed data on dozens of detailed tech industries from 2001-2012 and grouped them into five major clusters — semiconductors, computers and electronics, software, web and mobile, and life sciences.
For each sector, EMSI provided historic and current job estimates, as well as supply chain data (i.e., how much each sector purchases from other industries, and estimates of how much that spending is done inside and outside the region).
Austin’s strongest tech industries are in its fast-growing “soft-tech” sector (software and web-focused industries). Employment in the “hard-tech” sector (PC and semiconductor manufacturing) has declined 41% since 2001 after companies moved hardware production and the like overseas or just downsized, period.
Here’s how Zehr described the overall trends:
Yet the more broadly one looks at the arc of Austin’s high-tech history, the more the dot-com frenzy looks like an aberration — and the better the industrial mix looks today. Buoyed by Samsung and the massive presence of even a struggling Dell Inc., the region continues to get significant economic production, if fewer jobs, from its “hard tech” industries, such as computer and semiconductor manufacturing.
Meanwhile, the area’s “soft tech” industries — from software to gaming to Internet technology firms — are mushrooming, making for an increasingly diverse industrial mix. A thriving Web-services industry has emerged through companies such as HomeAway and Bazaarvoice, with plenty more percolating in local startup incubators.
In a separate report released earlier in May, Brian Kelsey of Civic Analytics, working for the Austin Technology Council, used EMSI data to show that the tech sector directly accounts for 9% of all jobs in Austin. And when you factor in spin-off jobs in other industries, one-third of all jobs are tech-related. Further, Kelsey showed that the tech sector comprises 21% of Central Texas’ gross regional product.
President Obama, during a visit to Austin, pointed to ATC’s study when he said, “According to one report, the tech sector now drives more than one-quarter of Austin’s economy. And all of this has helped to make Austin one of the fastest-growing cities in America.”
Kelsey’s report and the Statesman article are great examples of how EMSI data, with its depth and flexibility, can be applied to get a better handle on a region’s tech workforce, like Austin’s, or examine supply chains, job multipliers, and myriad other key economic and workforce indicators.