Silicon Valley is buzzing about last week's eight-page report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comparing Valley tech employment of 2001 with 2008. The headline: Employment is down by 17 percent but salaries are up by 36 percent.

What's that mean? Perhaps, as Tom Abate of The San Francisco Chronicle explains it, clerical and factory jobs have disappeared to India, Taiwan, and China, but the talent that's left is worth more than ever.  

So are we supposed to be heartened by this or frightened? Both, I guess. Silicon Valley remains a center of technological innovation and entrepreneurial activity. But the direct benefits of this are flowing to fewer people (wages in non-high-tech industries in Silicon Valley didn't rise at nearly the tech industry's pace).

Other facts from the report as summarized by the San Jose Mecury News:

  • High-tech jobs are five times more densely concentrated in Santa Clara County than in the nation as whole. The six-county Silicon Valley corridor is about three times more concentrated. 
  •  The growth of a biotech cluster in San Mateo and San Francisco counties and the Web portal and Web search industries in Santa Clara County helped counter downward employment trends.
  • High-tech employment fell 17 percent, or 85,000 jobs - 65,000 of them in Santa Clara County. During the same period the national work force grew by 4 percent.
  •  High-tech wages grew 42 percent in Santa Clara County, from $96,650 to $137,330.
  • The valley remained an innovation leader with 11 of the top 20 U.S. cities in new patents.

A bright spot: Internet search and Web portals, which have added 20,000 jobs during the seven-year period., a fact that's especially amazing given Yahoo!'s woes.

-- Don Willmott