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Silicon Valley Employment Stabilizes at 2004 Level

Silicon Valley Employment Stabilizes
Google employees sit outside during lunch at company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Silicon Valley employers rebounded from the recession by adding 12,300 positions last year, though the total number of jobs is only back to 2004 levels, according to an annual economic report on the region.

The study, released today by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, also found per-capita income stabilized last year, at $62,400 -- the same level as in 2005. Meanwhile, the region is still reeling from cutbacks in government jobs and programs, according to the report.

“The good news is the private sector is doing its thing -- don’t ask me how they’re doing it, they’re defying gravity,” Russell Hancock, chief executive officer of Joint Venture, a nonprofit group in San Jose, California, said in an interview. “The problem is the public sector is slammed.”

Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and a new crop of social-networking startups are stepping up hiring, helping offset government cuts and the shift of computer-hardware jobs to lower-cost regions. Google is adding 6,000 jobs worldwide this year, and Facebook plans to boost its workforce by 50 percent annually. The social-networking giant will move its headquarters to Menlo Park from nearby Palo Alto to accommodate the growth.

Dot-Com Days

The region is still making a slow crawl back to its heyday in 1999 and 2000, when the dot-com boom filled up offices, minted millionaires and pushed corporate valuations to record highs. After the bubble burst in March 2000, the Nasdaq Composite Index fell for three straight years, startups went out of business and demand for computer equipment slumped.

Employment had begun to recover by 2008, when the global recession kicked off a fresh wave of job cuts. The region lost about 90,000 positions between the second quarter of 2008 and the following year. The 2004 levels it’s seeing now are halfway between the dot-com peak and the pre-recession numbers in 2008.

Apple Inc., the world’s largest technology business by market value, was one of the companies adding employees in 2010. Cupertino, California-based Apple increased its global headcount 36 percent to 46,600 as of September. The company reported having 2,800 full-time temporary workers and contractors at that time, up from 2,500 the prior year.

The region, which includes Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, also posted an increase in patent registrations, venture-capital investments and initial public offerings. That’s helped slow the number of business failures, the research found. Clean energy, new media and information technology are all fueling the expansion, Hancock said.

‘Across the Board’

“There’s job creation across the board, and it’s driven by technology,” he said.

Office vacancy rates bottomed out last year, though it was mostly because of a decrease in new buildings, according to the report. Commercial construction dropped 80 percent from 2009.

Despite Silicon Valley’s reputation for Internet millionaires, participation in food-stamp programs rose 59 percent in the region between 2007 and 2010. That’s a bigger jump than the state’s total increase of 56 percent.

Public-sector employment declined 3 percent last year. In addition to cuts at the state and regional level, U.S. Census jobs ended and federal stimulus funds ran out.

“The public sector is a big employer, it’s not just a few people at city hall,” Hancock said. “Most people think the Valley is all these tech guys, geeks and computer programmers and coders, but that’s not the case -- that’s a minority of employment.”

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