I have another one up at New Geography this week, called “High Tech Won’t Save California’s Economy.”
The issue is not that California isn’t or won’t be a high tech powerhouse. It is, and it will be. The question is whether that will generate enough jobs to power California’s economy. I looked at job growth over the last two decades in Silicon Valley and San Diego (home to a major biotech cluster) and neither place generated particularly large numbers of jobs, though San Diego did ok.
This challenge has been well noted. For example, Richard Longworth in Caught in the Middle talked about how Chicago’s urban core boom hadn’t animated the entire region. These new economy companies are great, they just don’t generate as many good paying jobs as old line businesses once did. That’s ok if you are a small place like Singapore or Hong Kong, but not so great if you are state of 37 million people, or a metro region the size of Chicago.
While pulling stats for this piece, I quickly scanned Cook County, IL employment data. Cook County had almost 200,000 fewer jobs in 2008 than it did in 2000. But what really struck me was that it had about 70,000 fewer jobs in 2008 than it did in 1990. The contrast of this job decline over a span of time that saw Chicago experience arguably the greatest urban core renaissance in America puts the challenge facing all of us in stark relief, especially for those cities without even Chicago’s core boom. High tech and other normally targeted 21st century industries are vitally necessary, but are they enough?
As numbers from around the Midwest show, it’s not just California’s problem or Chicago’s, it’s pretty much everybody’s problem. And it’s a really hard one. This economy should crystalize for us all the paramount importance of not just finding future industries with high economic output, but ones that create plenty of jobs as well.