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Survey Finds High-Tech Jobs Increased in ’91

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego County’s unemployment rate may be relatively high and consumer confidence low, but the economic downdraft hasn’t stalled the area’s high-technology and biotechnology industries.

Employment in the two sectors grew an estimated 19% during the past year, according to a survey of 83 companies that are members of UC San Diego’s Connect program. Companies that took part in the informal survey reported that total employment rose to 14,271 during 1991, up from 12,008 during 1990.

Bryna W. Kranzler, associate director of the UCSD program, that provides assistance to entrepreneurial companies, acknowledged that the survey included a decidedly limited sample but said program administrators feel the results are nevertheless dramatic.

Kranzler linked the growth in jobs to the many successful public offerings by smaller companies that are continuing to raise money despite tough economic times. About a dozen smaller high-tech companies in San Diego have completed initial public offerings or secondary market offerings during the past two years.

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In addition to Qualcomm, a high-tech electronics company that Friday completed a $60-million initial public offering, San Diego has seen a wealth of public offerings by biotech companies, including recently by Idec, Imed, Isis, Gensia, Lidak and Immune Response.

Members of the Connect program reporting gains include Qualcomm, 680 employees, up from 350 in 1990; Gensia, 226 employees, up from 82, and Cytel, 98 employees, up from 72.

Some companies reported that employment fell. Mitek, for example, reported a drop to 150 in 1991, from 175 a year earlier.

When gains were reported, hiring was being done “across the board, from secretaries to manufacturing to laboratories and senior management,” Kranzler said.

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The high-tech and biotech expansion has also driven up demand for temporary help, said Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower Temporary Services in San Diego.

“Our business is growing in two sectors . . . in the very large firms . . . and in very small, high-tech and biotech areas,” he said.

Much of the demand for temporary workers is in the entrepreneurial companies with 50 to 100 employees,” Blair said. “I can easily understand that 19% (increase) at Connect.”

Blair said technology-oriented companies are seeking temporary workers who have a variety of skills.

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“They want prototype technicians, quality control people, assemblers and the like,” he said.

San Diego County’s unemployment rate stood at 6.2% in September, and observers suggest that the rate is likely to continue heading toward its highest annual average rate since 1983, when the annual unemployment rate hit 8.2%.


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