The last few years have been tough for many cities and localities. Most places have not yet fully recovered from the financial collapse, either in terms of jobs or revenues. High growth seems unattainable.
But some cities and localities—ranging from New York to New Orleans to Davis County, Utah—are doing unexpectedly well. What they have in common: Strong growth in the tech/information sector. This sector ranges from tech startups to Internet firms such as Google and Facebook to telecom providers such as AT&T and Verizon to content producers such as newspapers and movie studios (see definition below).
New analysis by the Progressive Policy Institute shows that places with strong tech/information growth have survived the recession much better than their counterparts. In particular, counties with a higher number of new tech/information sector jobs from 2007 to 2012 had enjoyed substantially faster growth in both overall private employment and non-tech jobs over the same period.
In order to quantify the link between the tech/information sector and overall growth, we have constructed the PPI Tech/Info Job Index. For each county, the Index measures the number of new tech/information jobs between 2007 and 2012, as a share of 2007 total private sector employment in that county. For example, an index of 1 means that new tech/info jobs equals 1% of total private employment.
On average, the top 25 counties, as measured by the Index, showed an average private sector job gain of 2.4% between 2007 and 2012. That doesn’t seem like much, but the remaining counties had a decline of 3.5%. In other words, a vibrant tech/info sector tended to make the difference between a local economy that had recovered by 2012, and one that was still in decline.
The implication is that policies to encourage tech/info growth are more likely to boost the overall economy. Innovation creates well-paying jobs. What’s more, the diversity of places on our list suggests a high-growth economy is not just for traditional tech powerhouses such as Silicon Valley, but has broader applicability.