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Report positive on NC high-tech jobs; picture is less rosy for traditional manufacturing

The addition of high-tech jobs in North Carolina is making the state’s economy more resilient to economic downturns, but the future is not as bright for traditional manufacturing, a report says.

TD Economics, an affiliate of TD Bank, released the report, which also says there’s a growing divide between highly skilled and low-skilled workers in the state.

North Carolina‘s transition from traditional manufacturing, like textile and apparel, to high-tech manufacturing, biotechnology and services is a necessary transition,” TD economist Christos Shiamptanis, who authored the report, said in a release. “High-skilled jobs are less sensitive to economic contractions than middle-skilled jobs, and the creation of high-tech business clusters is enhancing efficiency, improving productivity and bolstering the state’s output.”

The report says there are opportunities for North Carolina, including the development of technology clusters, the strength of its “world-class” research universities and the shift toward high-potential industries, such as electronics and pharmaceuticals.

From 1999 to 2009, computer and electronics manufacturing output in North Carolina increased by 569 percent, surpassing the national growth rate, Shiamptanis said.

“And even when the economy is underperforming, pharmaceutical companies tend to do well and high-tech computers tend to get smarter,” Shiamptanis said. “So as the share of high-tech and drug-producing firms increase in North Carolina, manufacturing jobs should become less volatile.”

But the outlook for the state’s traditional manufacturing industries is not as positive, the report says. Textile and apparel output amount to slightly less than 5 percent of North Carolina‘s manufacturing production, the report says, adding that competition from abroad will likely mean more declines.

According to the report, the shift in output and resources away from traditional manufacturing sectors toward high-tech manufacturing is deepening a labor market divide already in play.

North Carolina is seeing middle-skill jobs disappear and its work force is becoming increasingly polarized between those that have high skills and those that have low skills,” Shiamptanis said. “The tragedy of the high-tech industries is that many medium-skilled workers are discovering that they do not have the skills to compete for the jobs that are in high demand and may have to settle for low-skill jobs.”

TD Bank is headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Portland, Maine.

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