The U.S. high-tech sector added jobs for the third year in a row during 2007, but the 91,400 net jobs added fell short of the 139,000 added in 2006.

Overall, tech employment was up by 1.6 percent for a total of 5.9 million.

"While we are certainly pleased to report that the technology industry added jobs nationally and across nearly every state, national tech growth slowed in 2007, making the story good but not great,” said Christopher Hansen, chief executive officer of AeA, the largest technology trade assocation in the U.S.

Citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, the AeA report details job growth in four sectors. Software services and engineering and tech services added 82,600 jobs and 45,800 respectively. Both high-tech manufacturing and communication services shed jobs during 2007. High-tech had a net loss of 29,800 jobs, while communication lost 16,900.

“AeA is concerned that future growth is being jeopardized unless the United States prepares itself for a vastly more competitive global marketplace,” said Hansen. “The tech industry and the country risk an impending slide in U.S. global competitiveness, caused by negligence on the part of our political leaders to adequately invest in scientific research, improve our education system and allow the best and brightest from around the world to work in the United States.”

Venture capital (VC) investments in technology increased by 6 percent in 2007, adding $945 million for a total spending of $16.9 billion. Research and development (R&D) investments also reported an increase of 6 percent based on 2005 figures, the most recent data available, reaching $74.9 billion and taking 37 percent of the U.S. total.

State-by-state data was supplied based on 2006 information. California added the most jobs, with Texas and Virginia rounding out the top three. Virginia also led the nation in concentration of high-tech workers, with 91 high-tech workers per 1,000 private sector workers.

“Tech jobs make critical contributions to the U.S. economy in terms of innovation, and pay extremely well – the average tech-industry wage is 87 percent higher than the average private-sector wage,” Hanses points out. “While these are the types of jobs every state wants to attract, the labor market remains tight, with unemployment rates below 2 percent across many tech occupations."

“The outlook is mixed among economists, but the consensus is that job growth will be in engineering and technology service jobs as well as research and development,” said Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University.

The domestic loss of jobs in high-tech manufacturing is no surprise, but Walden notes it is typical of a product life-cycle, in any industry, to settle and then go where labor is less expensive. The communications sector is still reeling a period of bloating in the late 90’s and will continue to right-size itself.

“Foreign competition and the ability to find well-trained workers should be of particular concern to the leaders of high-tech industry,” warns Walden. “The bread and butter of the future is in R&D. Industy growth is where innovation takes place.”

North Carolina employed 145,200 tech workers and ranked No. 16 in the country for a 2 percent increase with 2,900 net jobs added. Still, the report indicates the state lost 4,000 jobs within the Internet services category; specifically, data processing, hosting and related services.

Overall, North Carolina raised $577 million in capital during 2007. R&D expenditures reached $6.6 billion, based on 2004 figures.

Neighboring states faired well, too.

Virginia’s tech industry grew by 4 percent, adding 9,800 jobs to rank No. 5 in the country at 270,800 total tech employment. During 2007, capital raised capped at $463 million. It’s R&D expenditures were $7.9 billion.

Georgia got its first job gain since the dot-bomb in 2001, with 3,000 net jobs added for a total of 165,500. Capital investments for the state came to $463 million – a 30 percent increase. R&D spending was $4.1 billion.

The lag time of the state reports seem long to Peter Hermann, chief executive officer of the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA), who said, “What is important is what is being done now.” He adds, “If we [North Carolina] are to continue to be a premier technology hub, we need to focus on areas with long-term effect.”

Fostering a business-to-business atmosphere, in conjunction with a proactive state Legislature, should be a top priority Hermann says. In particular, he emphasizes the importance of an R&D tax credit as a competitive edge. Councils – similar to NCTA – across the country are actively nurturing technology.

“The competitive environment is such that it’s more and more difficult to attract and retain knowledge workers,“ suggests Hermann. “Therefore, education is critical to compete. Science and math are not only important at the university level. High school studies need to do a better job.”