Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where the Jobs Are – DC's Maryland Suburbs and Portland

Going to try and make this a regular feature. Part of the problem with economic development hype about biotech, greentech, whatever tech is that it obscures reality. So what I'll do here is run some indeed.com searches, and report back what employers are actually hiring for, not what's being promoted in economic development brochures.

First stop, the 20814 zip code in Bethesda, MD, home to NIH, which is the leading funder of medical research in the country, investing about $15 billion annually in research grants.

Expect a big biotech showing here? Within 10 miles, 3,322 jobs mentioning “SQL Server”, 165 mentioning “biotech”. So in NIH's backyard, back office database skills are in greater demand than biotech by a 20:1 ratio.

10 miles within 20814, "Nurse" gets you 2,949 job listings, or about 18x biotech. 587 listings for “Social Worker” in that same search, or about 3.5x biotech.

Let's move it up a few miles to Gaithersburg, MD 20878 – MedImmune headquarters, do a 10 mile radius, and see what we get.

SQL Server drops to 420, but biotech's still just 143. “Nurse” gets you 390, or about 2.5x biotech – in MedImmune's hometown.

Head across the country to Portland, 97201. They claim to be the leader in green technologies, so let's do a job search within 10 miles of the downtown zip code for “green”. 198 results. Take it out 25 miles, and you get 375. “Solar” at 25 miles gets you 164, “wind” 111. In the same geography, “Nurse” produces 1,678 listings. So in the alleged center for green employment, employers ask for a nurse 5x more frequently than they mention the word green, and 10x more frequently than they mention solar.


  1. Obviously SQL server is going to have more listings. It is large scale, reasonably generic skill. Accountants, truck drivers, retail clerks, are similar. Also, biotech and other types of businesses employ tons of SQL server DBAs, HR people, accountants, sales, customer care, etc.

  2. "Also, biotech and other types of businesses employ tons of SQL server DBAs, HR people, accountants, sales, customer care, etc."

    Not as many as other industries. Their administrative overhead is much lower than most other companies. Amgen has just 13,000 employees and $14 billion of annual revenue, so revenue productivity is around $1.1 million per employee per year.

    Cisco, on the other hand, has 66,000 employees supporting annual revenue of $36 billion, or just 550,000 of annual revenue per employee - HALF of Amgen's. Oracle's got 49,000 supporting $23 billion of annual revenue, comparable to Cisco.

    Of Cisco's 66,000 people, 43%, or about 27,000 work in "business support" - finance, admin, DBAs, marketing, IT, etc. That means it employs about as many overhead workers per dollar of revenue as Amgen employs total.

  3. The point is generic vs. specialty occupations. You should look at location quotients if you want to know real disproportionate sectors. Looking at a generic job descriptions for which there are no firms - other than a few consulting shops, there is no "SQL Server industry" - tells us nothing.

    I'll agree that aggregate employment in some sectors may be low. However, what is the impact of those jobs? I don't know the exact answer, but I do know not all employees are created equal in a firm. The top 10% or so disproportionately make it happen.

    Also, DC is a terrible comp for anyone since one of its biggest industries can literally print money to pay employees above market wages.

  4. "DC is a terrible comp"

    Numbers are the same in other cities.

    Also, besides spitting out a bunch of academic charts, LQs tell us nothing here, because we need to look to the future. And in the 2010s, implementing technology creates far more jobs than creating it, but many econ dev agencies are acting like it's 1998, hoping some "tech" startups will come in and create some kind of odd multiplier effect, which is hard to do when all you've got is three guys developing $1.99 games for the App Store. Moreover, with such high productivity, biotech is often better at creating wealth than jobs.