Arizona lags in high-paying ‘advanced industry’ jobs

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More than 216,300 Arizonans work in technologically advanced industries, most earning relatively high pay, but the state is below average in attracting these coveted positions, according to a new report.

Advanced industries including those focused around computers, engineering, aerospace and medical laboratories account for just 8 percent of direct jobs in Arizona, placing No. 30 among the states and 36th in terms of employment growth over the past year, according to the study by the Brookings Institution. California had the most such jobs at more than 1.7 million, followed by Texas and New York.

With roughly 158,000 jobs in advanced industries, the Phoenix area ranked 54th among 100 larger cities and 51st for one-year growth. Tucson, with 32,958 positions, was near the bottom, in 99th place, with a 2.2 percent decline in advanced-industry jobs from 2014 to 2015.

The New York area had the most advanced-industry jobs at more than 671,000, followed by Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago. San Francisco and San Jose combined had more tech positions than New York but were counted separately.

The report defines advanced industries as those that spend at least $450 a year per worker on research and development and that employ at least one-fifth of their work forces in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. These mostly tech-focused jobs support innovation and sustainable growth and are “prerequisites for any future broadly shared prosperity,” according to the report.

Advanced-industry jobs tend to dominate in attracting research and development spending, in generating exports and in the number of patents awarded and engineers employed. Workers in these fields generated $214,000 in output on average, compared with $108,000 for workers in other industries. Brookings defined the broad tech sector as including fields such as auto manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

Arizona’s advanced-industry jobs pay $88,149 a year on average, well above the $49,046 for all industries in the state. Arizona’s top advanced industry is computer-systems design, which employs 31,440 people, followed by aircraft products/parts (24,950), engineering (23,410), semiconductors (21,920), management consulting (18,320) and metal-ore mining (10,200). Advanced industries support another 173,060 indirect jobs at other businesses such as suppliers.

The profile for the Phoenix area is similar. The 158,775 advanced-industry jobs here pay $95,029 a year on average, above the metro-area average of $51,809. Computer-systems design leads the way with 25,620 jobs, followed by semiconductors (20,570), engineering (17,910), management consulting (15,360) and aircraft products/parts (14,160). Advanced industries support an additional 127,020 jobs in metro Phoenix.

Advanced-industry state rankings

Arizona had below-average growth in advanced-industry jobs from 2014 to 2015. Here are the leaders and their annual growth rates:

1. Tennessee, 4.6 percent

2. Georgia, 4.4 percent

3. Michigan, 4 percent

4. Florida, 4 percent

5. North Carolina, 3.9 percent

36. Arizona, 1.1 percent

Advanced-industry city rankings

Metro Phoenix was near the middle of the pack, and Tucson near the bottom, in terms of advanced-industry job growth from 2014 to 2015. Here are leaders of the 100 metro areas examined:

1. Nashville, 7.9 percent

2. San Francisco, 7.9 percent

3. Jackson, Miss., 7.6 percent

4. Cape Coral, Fla., 7.6 percent

5. Kansas City, 7.2 percent

51. Phoenix, 2 percent

99. Tucson, -2.2  percent