Science, tech jobs dominate region, census says

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Science and technology jobs dominate the Washington region, with Maryland counties lagging their Northern Virginia counterparts in such growth, according to census data released Tuesday.

"Professional, scientific and technical services," a census designation that includes scientific research, computer design and biotechnology, is the top private industry in D.C. and every neighboring county except Prince George's, according to census data.

Fairfax County alone held nearly 190,000 jobs in the sector in 2011, good for one-third of all private employment there. That's up 39 percent from science and technology employment a decade ago. Arlington had an even larger jump -- 40,342 employees there work in science and technology, up 48 percent from 2001.

On the job
Private-sector employment, 2011
Employees Total annual payroll Businesses
D.C. 477,623 $32,872,009,000 21,545
Montgomery 412,473 $24,526,403,000 26,327
Prince George's 243,227 $10,518,353,000 13,991
Arlington 134,091 $9,781,155,000 6,101
Fairfax 569,388 $40,130,401,000 28,871
Alexandria 80,378 $4,567,220,000 4,525
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

That growth

helped both counties rise to the top of the region in average private employee salary, with Arlington workers bringing in about $72,944 on average and Fairfax workers taking home an average of $70,480. The average worker in the District is not far behind, making $68,824.

Montgomery County saw the slowest growth in the region outside of Prince George's in the sector. Its 75,667 such workers are only a 12 percent increase from a decade ago.

Many of Montgomery's science and technology jobs go uncounted in measures of private employment because of federal employment in the sector -- the county is home to the main campus of the National Institutes of Health as well as the headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Health and Human Services offices. County officials are pushing the development of Science City,

a massive center in Gaithersburg dedicated to science industries, as a way to attract more workers.

Fairfax officials, meanwhile, are planning state-of-the-art wet labs as a way to continue growth through the biotechnology industry. Of its current jobs in the professional, scientific and technical sector, nearly 96,000 are related to computer system design and programming, with only about 35,000 in scientific research.

"Maryland probably needs a little IT support, and Virginia needs a bit more wet lab space," said Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

In Prince George's County, retail trade has remained the largest industry since 2001. While the average worker salary there is only $43,245, a steadily growing health care and social assistance sector could be good news for the county. Health care has been a big part of Prince George's redevelopment goals, with a $650 million medical center planned for 2017.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner