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High-tech jobs key to L.A. County economy, report says

High-tech jobs key to L.A. County economy, report says
The music-streaming company Pandora has an office in Santa Monica. More than 368,000 people were employed last year in the high-tech sector, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County companies now employ more workers in high-technology jobs than they do in more entrenched sectors such as manufacturing, food services or construction, according to a new study.

More than 368,000 people were employed last year in the high-tech sector, a broad category that includes software design, telecommunications, aerospace manufacturing and architecture and engineering, according to a report released Monday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

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The study found that the county had more high-tech jobs than any other major market in the country — ahead of Santa Clara County, the primary home of Silicon Valley, which employs 313,216. Its closest challenger was the Boston area, which has 361,380 high-tech workers.

The nonprofit economic development group did not provide the proportion of high-tech jobs to the entire workforce in each region, so it was not clear how dependent each area was on high-tech jobs. Santa Clara County and the Boston area, for instance, each have smaller workforces than Los Angeles County's, according to federal data.

"Los Angeles' tech industry is now as critical to our economy as manufacturing and entertainment, and we are outperforming our peers," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday.

The report considers industries to be high tech if they have a higher proportion of technology-related workers than other industries. In Los Angeles County, some of the biggest components of the high-tech industry are aerospace, technical consulting management, software design and online publishing, and architecture and engineering.

High-tech wages are markedly higher than average pay in other parts of the workforce. High-tech positions paid an average of $86,934 in 2013, the report found, compared to an average of $51,778 in non-tech industries.

And wages have been on the rise. From 2003 through 2013, average pay in Los Angeles County grew less than 0.1%, while high-tech wages rose 7.2%.

Overall, the high-tech sector accounted for 9% of all employment in the county, but nearly 17% of total wages paid by employers.

"These are pathways out of poverty, pathways to the middle class, pathways to prosperity for individuals and their families," said Bill Allen, chief executive of the economic development group.

The report noted that employment in the high-tech sector grew at about the same rate as the county's overall workforce, but there has been a shift from high-tech manufacturing jobs toward more service-oriented jobs.

"This mirrors the national trend of falling manufacturing employment and a shift to services, which is attributed to a number of factors, including automation, globalization, technological progress and changes in consumer behavior," the report concluded.

Twitter: @c_kirkham

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