Silicon Valley Economy Good, Hesitant

A new report shows growth, and a growing disparity in incomes.

"It's as if we are becoming two valleys" begins this year's Silicon Valley Index economic report.

Normally a cheering section for the high-tech industry, the report's author, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, warns "we don't see [our report] as a cause for celebration."

Certainly there is an enormous amount of good news found in the 80 pages of analysis:

  • Silicon Valley* added 42,000 jobs in 2011
  •  Unemployment in the area is 8.3 percent, far lower than California's overall 10.9% jobless rate
  • Venture capital investment grew 17 percent
  • Demand for commercial space continues to grow

However, the report focused on the growing divide: the rich grew richer, but the average family became poorer. Forty-three percent of Silicon Valley families are considered "high income" (more than $100,000) and saw their income grow, but "most residents continued to suffer earnings losses as the regions median income continued to slide."

Nearly one-third of Silicon Valley children get reduced-priced school meals.

Technology continues to dominate both growth and high value jobs; 17 percent of all residents in Silicon Valley work in science or engineering, but the region's economic growth touched nearly every industry except construction.

White workers saw the most benefit while Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians saw fewer new job opportunities. The report does not explore this matter further.

The report also warns Silicon Valley cities may never recover their financial health. Home prices are not expected to recover quickly, suppressing property tax rates.

"This trend, combined with continuing population growth and the challenges of funding retirement benefits will make it more difficult for local government to fund high quality public services," it concludes.

Local leaders will gather Friday morning in San Jose to discuss the issues at the annual JVSV conference

* Joint Venture Silicon Valley considers "Silicon Valley" to be all of Santa Clara, all of San Mateo (as far north as South San Francisco) and parts of Alameda and Santa Cruz counties.

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