Analysts: Austin tech scene is back from recession

May 12, 2014
Austin American Statesman

Back in 2009, in the middle of the nation’s economic downturn, Austin’s tech sector was taking a beating. Worldwide PC sales were slowing. Companies were tightening their belts. Tech startups were failing. At the end of 2009, the area’s number of jobs in key tech industries had slumped to less than 82,000 — the lowest since the dot-com bust of the early 2000s


“It was a grim place for tech in the worst of the recession as layoffs were being reported all over the city,” said tech analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. “It was ugly.”


But five years later, things are looking brighter for Austin’s technology sector. Despite national fears of another tech bubble, local analysts and economists say they’re optimistic when it comes to the health of Austin’s tech sector


Austin’s tech sector’s total employment has climbed back up to more than 100,000 jobs — a jump of about 19 percent since the end of the recession in 2009, according to Brian Kelsey, principal of Civic Analytics, an Austin-based economic consulting firm. Austin is on pace this year to exceed its 2001 tech employment, Kelsey said, “which would be a remarkable achievement given the depths of the recession experienced locally after the dot-com bust.”


Local high-tech companies supplied about 9 percent of the area’s jobs in 2012, according to data from Civic Analytics and the Austin Technology Council. If local tech jobs reach 101,000 this year, those numbers would rise to almost 12 percent of the metro area’s roughly 855,000 jobs


As it bounces back, the area’s tech sector does, however, have a different look as it evolves away from hardware and PC sales. At the same time Dell Inc., long the anchor of the area’s tech scene, is now privately held and in transition. Apple Inc. is boosting its Austin presence with a new operations center. At Flextronics’ Austin site, they are building the first U.S.-made Apple computers in years. Advanced Micro Devices says it is poised to boom


“The overall strength of Austin’s tech sector,” Kelsey said, “has created a much different experience during this recovery compared to the dot-com bust.”


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