Given the sluggish U.S. economy, it’s little surprise that a new report from a U.S. technology industry nonprofit found net job losses last year in the high-tech sector of most big cities. But fewer jobs available doesn’t necessarily make it easier for government to find skilled workers.

On Dec. 8, the TechAmerica Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan affiliate of TechAmerica, a resource for the U.S. technology industry, released its 120-page report Cybercities 2010: The Definitive Analysis of the High-Technology Industry in the Nation’s Top 60 Cities tracks high-tech employment, wages, establishments, payroll, employment concentration and wage differential at the metropolitan level in the private sector. Key findings listed in the report indicate that 53 of the 60 cyber-cities — high-tech metropolitan cities — saw net job loss in 2009. The leading 10 cyber-cities by high-tech employment each showed negative job growth except for Seattle.

But fewer jobs doesn’t necessarily make it a bullish market for government employers. Michael Kerr, TechAmerica’s senior director of state and local government, said that although government is making strides in attracting talent with high-tech skill sets, there remains a “skills shortage” of qualified people.

“Government tends to invest well in training, and more government entities are adopting the technologies with which recent college graduates are familiar. But we do detect a skills gap in the overall work force, as there are many hard-to-fill jobs at IT companies, Kerr said in an e-mail. “Skills shortages eventually impact government IT, as the private sector is willing and able to pay a premium for access to such talent.”

If there’s a positive, Kerr said, it’s that there are several state capitals among the leading cyber-cities and that state government is a strong magnet for skilled and talented people.

Other findings of the TechAmerica report included:

  • New York metropolitan statistical area, which includes counties from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, led high-tech employment with 317,000 tech workers, but had negative 2.7 percent job growth;
  • Washington, D.C., which includes counties from three states and the District

    of Columbia, had 293,00 tech workers with negative 0.6 percent job growth;

  • San Jose/Silicon Valley, Calif., had 225,600 tech workers with negative 3.7 percent job growth;
  • Boston had 219,800 tech workers with negative 1.2 percent job growth;
  • Dallas/Fort Worth had 174,800 tech workers with negative 4.5 percent job growth;
  • Los Angeles had 170,000 tech workers with negative 4.1 percent job growth;
  • Chicago had 161,800 tech workers with negative 4.8 percent job growth;
  • Seattle had 145,300 tech workers with 0 percent job growth;
  • Philadelphia had 134,200 tech workers with negative 2.0 percent job growth; and
  • Houston had 127,800 tech workers with negative 3.2 percent job growth.

According to the report, cities that added the most high-tech jobs were Oklahoma City, adding 900 jobs; and Huntsville, Texas; San Diego; and Denver each adding 300 jobs.

Some private-sector IT industry sections have still managed to grow, which has benefited federal government. Washington, D.C., employed almost 160,000 workers in computer systems design and related services.

Josh James, TechAmerica’s vice president of research and industry analysis, said one of D.C.’s strongest sectors for job growth currently is computer systems design. The district’s computer systems design sector alone added 11,000 jobs from 2007 to 2009.

Olga Grkavac, TechAmerica’s executive vice president for its public sector, said in a statement that software services continue to be a strong driver for Washington, D.C.’s high-tech economy.

“Software enables productivity gains in all other sectors of the economy including the federal government,” Grkavac said. “Policymakers need to understand the vital role technology plays when considering federal IT budgets and their impact of efficient, effective government.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.