Greater Opportunity Through Innovative Change


A group of entrepreneurs, government officials and academics is working to increase the perception that Arkansas' economy includes a high-technology "knowledge-based" private industry sector. One simple way to document any such trend is to have the Arkansas Department of Employment Security (ADES) include high-technology industries in its monthly establishment survey of non-farm payroll employment.

The largest high-technology industries, according to research published by the U.S. Department of Labor1, are Computer and Data Processing Services (2,190,000); Management and Public Relations Services (1,224,000); Engineering and Architectural Services (1,029,000); Motor Vehicles and Equipment Manufacturing (912,000); and Electronic Components and Accessories Manufacturing (550,000). (Note: Data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics September 2002 establishment survey). High-technology work, economist Daniel Hecker notes, are:

"…scientific, technical, and engineering occupations …They include the following occupational groups and detailed occupations: engineers; life and physical scientists; mathematical specialists; engineering and science technicians; computer specialists; and engineering, scientific and computer managers. Individuals who are employed in these occupations are collectively referred to as technology-oriented workers. Workers in these occupations need in-depth knowledge of the theories and principles of science, engineering, and mathematics, which is generally acquired through specialized post-high school education in some field of technology-ranging from an associate degree to a doctorate."

Three of these high-technology industries (Computer and Data Processing; Management and Public Relations; Engineering and Architectural) are in the Services private industry sector while two (Motor Vehicles and Equipment; Electronic Components and Accessories) are in the Manufacturing sector. William Luker, Jr., and Donald Lyons examined the trend in high-technology employment from Manufacturing to Services. They wrote in the U.S. Department of Labor's Monthly Labor Review :

"From 1988 to 1996, employment in high-technology industries shifted more toward services … employment is shifting toward services, as defense-dependent manufacturing industries declines; and demand for high-tech workers
engaged in R & D is shifting toward production of services rather than of goods."2

The Arkansas Department of Employment Security (ADES) already compiles monthly data for Electronic and Other Electrical Equipment production in the Manufacturing sector. The Electronic Components and Accessories industry referred to in Labor Department material is part of Electronic and Other Electrical Equipment production. The monthly ADES survey of Arkansas' Electronic and Other Electrical Equipment industry serves as a proxy of sorts for high-tech Manufacturing employment because Motor Vehicles and Equipment data is not compiled separately.

It is possible Arkansas' high-technology employment is being understated due to the manner in which it is being reported in the monthly survey. The Business Services industry, which employed 57,000 Arkansans (September 2002), includes Computer and Data Processing Services, which is not reported as a separate category. Other components of Business Services are Services to Buildings and Personnel Supply Services. It is unlikely these latter two components employ all 57,000.

Employment in the other two high-technology industries in the Services--Management and Public Relations Services; and Engineering and Architectural Services--are unreported as separate components in Arkansas on a monthly basis. Yet it is clear that thousands of Arkansans are employed in these two industries.

All government agencies in the 12-state Southeast region include the Electronic and Other Electrical Equipment category in their monthly labor market surveys. But few compile employment data for the three high-technology industries in the Services sector. Florida and West Virginia include a hybrid Engineering and Management Services category while Louisiana features an Engineering, Accounting and Related Services category. All three states began compiling this employment data in 1988.

No state in the region publishes monthly data for the five largest high-technology industries identified in Department of Labor publications. Arkansas could distinguish itself from other states in the region, and draw attention to its own high-technology sector, by publishing this information.

--Greg Kaza