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Seattle shows money to high-tech workers

San Jose, Calif., may be the biggest high-tech employer in the country, but Seattle-area workers earn 50 percent more on average than their Silicon Valley peers, according to a new report.

San Jose, Calif., may be the biggest high-tech employer in the country, but Seattle-area workers recently earned 50 percent more on average than their Silicon Valley peers, according to a new report measuring the economic impact of technology on U.S. cities.

The study, released Tuesday by the American Electronics Association (AeA) and the Nasdaq Stock Market, looked at 60 metropolitan areas between 1993 and 1998--the most recent year for which data was available, according to a spokesman.

The study mostly confirmed what many already believe: The high-technology industry has spilled out well beyond Silicon Valley, spurring job growth and boosting salaries across the country.

"The study reaffirms some of the anecdotal perceptions that high-tech growth is not limited to just one region or one state," said AeA spokesman Marc Brailov.

Titled "Cybercities: A City By City Overview of the High-Technology Industry," the 135-page report ranked cities by job-growth rates, total employment and average high-tech salaries, among other criteria, based on U.S. government economic data.

Report Highlights  
Cybercities: California, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Texas have three or more cybercities.  
Employment: Washington, D.C., leads in software services employment with 70,400 workers. Boston ranks second at 48,100, followed by San Jose, Calif., at 43,300.  
San Jose has the nation's highest number of workers in computer, electronics components, semiconductor and industrial electronics manufacturing.  
Home PCs: San Jose, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; and Washington, D.C., top computer penetration, with PCs in at least 65 percent of all homes as of August 2000.  
Quality of life: Boulder, Colo.; San Francisco; Denver; Raleigh, N.C.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul are the most desirable places to live based on air pollution, crime, unemployment, commute times, arts and culture, and climate.  
VC funding: San Francisco is the leading cybercity for venture capital investments at $9.3 billion in 1999, followed by San Jose, Calif., New York, Boston and Oakland, Calif.  
Housing prices: The San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County and Boston have the highest housing costs, with 1999 median home prices of more than $230,000.  
Source: AeA, Nasdaq Stock Market
It found that the nation's top high-tech employers in 1998 were San Jose at 252,900; Boston at 234,800; Chicago at 180,400; Washington, D.C., at 177,700; and Dallas at 176,600.

Cities with the highest high-tech job growth rates were Colorado Springs, Colo., with 77 percent; San Francisco with 65 percent; Houston with 64 percent; Denver with 63 percent; and Sacramento, Calif., with 57 percent.

The study found that Seattle's average high-tech wage in 1998 was $129,300, or 50 percent more than the average high-tech wage of $85,100 paid in San Jose. Other top high-tech wage cities were Middlesex, N.J., at $78,800; San Francisco at $78,400; and Austin, Texas, at $76,300.

The high-tech industry created some 1.1 million new jobs nationally from 1993, accounting for 8 percent of the net 13.8 million private-sector jobs added in the United States in the same period.

Brailov said the study's conclusions were mirrored in a U.S. Department of Commerce report published in June that found 30 percent of total real economic growth in the United States from 1995 came from information technology industries.

In addition, the report found that productivity growth in the past five years grew to 2.8 percent, up from 1.4 percent during the period between 1973 to 1995.

If high-tech growth has been a boon for cities in terms of job growth and higher salaries, it has more recently created new social tensions stemming from the so-called dot-com economy. In San Francisco, for example, voters in the Nov. 7 election narrowly turned back a local proposition aimed at limiting high-tech growth within the city.

Brailov said the study did not attempt to assess the effect of such social factors in its report, although it did look at other quantifiable fallout, such as rising housing prices. Nevertheless, he said the report overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that high technology has been a positive influence on quality of life in high-growth cities.

"The high-tech industry has had a positive impact," Brailov said. "It has created jobs, raised wages, and improved the standard of living of people across the county."