By LES BLUMENTHAL
Tacoma News Tribune
April 27, 2005
That's $10,000 more than high-tech workers in California, $13,000 more than those in Massachusetts and $16,000 more than those in New Jersey, according to the survey of all 50 states by the American Electronics Association.
The survey also found Washington ranked fourth among the all states when it came to the amount of venture capital invested in high technology, $868 million in 2004, or more than twice as much as the previous year.
The survey, released Tuesday offered a snapshot of a high-tech industry still struggling to rebound.
Overall, more than 150,800 people worked in Washington's high-tech sector, which includes everything from software development to telecommunications services and from semiconductor manufacturing to consumer electronics manufacturing. The state ranked 15th in high-tech employment. In the top state, California, more than 915,000 people were employed by high-tech firms.
Though Washington state was hard hit when the high-tech bubble burst, the survey said job layoffs have slowed. About 6,000 high-tech workers lost their jobs in 2003, a loss of about 4 percent.
"I sense things are getting better," said Terry Byington, executive director of the association's Washington state council in Seattle. "We're getting a lot of calls from companies looking for people to hire. A couple of years ago it was mostly people calling looking for jobs."
The average salary for the state's high-tech workers was almost $26,000 higher than the national average. Byington and others said that was because roughly a fourth of the state's high-tech workers were employed by better paying software publishers, where the annual average salary was $181,700.
Without software publishers, the annual salary would have been $66,300. The average private sector salary in Washington state was about $38,700.
Washington state ranked second behind only California in the number of software publishing jobs. California had 44,000 software jobs, Washington state 37,000 and Massachusetts was a distant third with almost 20,000, the survey said.
Byington said the high average salary for high-tech workers in Washington state was actually a double-edged sword.
"It's great we have these great wages and it's good for the employees," she said. "But we are competing with other states where salaries are lower."
While most people think of Microsoft when it comes to high tech in the state, Byington said there was a lot of diversity in the industry.
"We are not overly dependent on any one segment," she said. "Microsoft put us on the map and spurred a lot of development. But the industry is a lot bigger and a lot older than Microsoft.