California has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of "advanced industry" workers -- a group that includes highly skilled software designers, architects, medical equipment manufacturers and web developers, according to a new analysis.
The strong presence of such industries in the state offers job opportunities that pay on average $90,000 -- nearly twice as much as the average pay in other industries.
The report released Monday by the Brookings Institution found that the San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego metropolitan areas had some of the largest shares of high-tech workers in the country -- all ranking in the top 10 of the largest 100 U.S. metro areas.
But there was wide variation across the state. Areas such as Stockton, Fresno and the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles ranked among the bottom 10 of the country’s large metro areas, showing the geographic disparities of high-value jobs in California.
"The state is so bifurcated," said Mark Muro, a policy director at Brookings who co-wrote the report. "San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego are amazing stories. But it is sobering to look at the inland state metros."
The report found that the Los Angeles-Orange County metro area ranked in the middle, with about 9% of its workforce classified as being in advanced industries. That’s higher than both Chicago and New York, but far behind San Jose and San Francisco, where advanced industry workers made up 30% and 14% of the overall workforce, respectively.
California ranked seventh among all states for the concentration of advanced industry jobs.
The Brookings analysis defined "advanced industries" as those that spend a significant amount on research and development, and employ workers with higher-than-average skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It encompasses a wide array of professions, from management consulting to computer systems design to aircraft parts manufacturing.
The goal of the study was to zero in on industries that both offer better pay for workers and contribute to the nation's ability to compete in the global economy. The so-called advanced industries are responsible for 60% of U.S. exports, meaning wealth is brought back to the United States from elsewhere, as opposed to being recirculated within.
"Not all industries or jobs matter in the same way, and these are the industries that matter more," Muro said. "This is the way in for new resources, new spending and new income to the U.S. economy."
By pinpointing the geographic distribution of such jobs, the study also showed the strengths and weaknesses of different regions.
Job growth in the advanced industries sector has been brisk since the recession, expanding at nearly twice the rate of all other sectors combined since 2010. But the growth is happening in fewer areas than in the past.
Only 23 large U.S. metropolitan areas have more than 10% of their workforce in advanced industries, compared with 59 in 1980.
"The U.S. economy is more reliant on a smaller number of advanced industry clusters today than at any point in recent history," the report concluded.
Much of the problem lies with training, the study found. The United States ranks 32nd among developed nations for the percentage of graduates with science, engineering and math majors -- placing it behind countries such as Greece, Mexico and France.
Advanced industry sectors that had the strongest concentrations across California included computer systems design, management consulting and R&D services, according to the report. San Jose had high concentrations of employees in semiconductors and computer equipment, while Los Angeles specialized largely in management consulting, along with architecture and engineering.