Tech job growth is booming in SF, but other industries still dominate

Jonah Owen Lamb/The S.F. ExaminerAlthough tech is on the rise in San Francisco

Dennis Nix might not strike anyone with Twitter’s recent stock offering on the brain as a typical, well-paid San Francisco worker.

On Monday, the financial adviser for MassMutual walked down the sidewalk of the Financial District in a brown jacket and purple tie, a far cry from the T-shirts and hoodies dominating tech-heavy mid-Market Street and South of Market.

Nix’s industry — finance and insurance — is one of several that get little press, but pay high wages and employ lots of people. Those two industries still employ about 28,000 people in San Francisco, according to the Census Bureau.

“I think in San Francisco we always think of it as tech,” said the 30-year San Francisco resident. “It’s a new thing, it’s what you hear in the news all the time.”

While the tech industry is at the forefront of the hiring that has helped create The City’s buoyant economy, it still only accounts for a small portion of all jobs here, said Ted Egan, chief economist for the City Controller’s Office.

“I think that it is not that big, maybe 8 percent of private-sector jobs in The City,” Egan said of the sector.

But that does not take away from the unparalleled growth that information technology companies in San Francisco have experienced in the past few years.

Indeed, Egan’s recent report on The City’s economy, which was released in October, showed that San Francisco County is outpacing all other large counties — counties with more than 250,000 workers — in the nation when it comes to nongovernment job creation rates, at 6.1 percent. Even Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County had a rate of 4.5 percent.

The sector at the vanguard of San Francisco’s job growth is tech, with a 12 percent employment growth rate from 2011 to 2012.

“Its growth has basically been responsible for almost all the job growth in San Francisco over the past several years,” Egan said.

From 2011 to 2012, technology companies — defined as IT services, computer systems design and internet publishing — created 25 percent of all new jobs in San Francisco, or 7,701 jobs. All other sectors in the economy created 28,722 new jobs in that same time.

But this rate of growth is not new, Egan said.

Information technology job creation has been expanding quicker than most other sectors for the past threes decades, he said.

In 1990, tech workers accounted for less than 1 percent of workers in San Francisco. By 2000 that number had grown to 3 percent. It is now 6 percent.

Whether it’s their fault or not, the young, highly paid tech workers who have been coming to San Francisco in recent years have taken the brunt of the blame for sky-high rents and the gentrification that has been the result.

The tech sector’s average annual wage is about $160,000, according to Egan.

SMALL SECTOR, BIG IMPACT

Tech jobs created 2011-12: 7,701

Jobs created in all other sectors 2011-12: 28,722

Total tech jobs in 2012: roughly 37,000

All private-sector jobs in 2012: roughly 491,000

San Francisco unemployment rate for August: 5.6%

Source: City Controller’s Office

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