Utah’s tech sector now accounts for more than 300,000 jobs in the state, a new study finds

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Participants crowd the halls of the third annual Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.

Employment in Utah’s technology sector has grown at twice the national average over the past 10 years and the industry now supports 1 in every 7 jobs in the state, a new study says.

With more than 116,100 in direct employment, the tech sector’s influence on Utah’s overall economy is now ahead of the state’s real estate industry — only with an average yearly compensation of $102,000 per position, nearly 75 percent higher than the average of $58,400 paid per job in other industries.

Spending in Utah by tech companies and their workers supported another 186,000 non-tech jobs on top of that, meaning that what analysts refer to as the state's "tech and innovation economy" accounted for nearly a sixth of Utah's total gross domestic product in 2017, according to the first-of-its-kind study by the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Put another way, nearly 14.5 percent of all earnings by Utah workers in 2017 came either directly from tech companies or from companies outside the sector that were supported by its spending. The industry supported 15.2 percent of all jobs in Utah, either directly or indirectly.

The taxpayer-backed research paper was released Monday at the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City as part of a "Tech Day on the Hill," sponsored by Gov. Gary Herbert's Office of Economic Development (GOED).

Ranging from startups to tech firms with billion-dollar-plus valuations, firms that make up on the Utah's technology sector centered along Silicon Slopes have been a key driver in the state's recent economic success, according to Levi Pace, senior research analyst at the Gardner Institute and the study's lead researcher.

"Utah's tech companies compete on a big stage when it comes to software, IT services, devices, and e-commerce," Pace said in a statement.

The study analyzed four parts of Utah’s technology sector: IT support; information technology, such as software and telecommunications; trade and e-commerce; and manufacturing — but excluded in-house programmers and IT support specialists working at non-tech-related companies in Utah.

Analysts drew on input from three Utah trade associations: Silicon Slopes, Utah Technology Council and Women Tech Council, along with GOED and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

Utah’s tech industry averaged 3.6 percent job growth per year from 2007 to 2017, according to the findings, for a growth rate that was more than double that of the industry on a national level. Average earnings per job in the sector came in at $77,200 yearly in 2017, compared to $50,600 for all other industries in the state.

The sector’s 116,100 jobs that year put it ahead of employment by the real estate industry and administrative and support-services sectors in Utah. Only finance and insurance; hospitality and food services; local government; and the construction sectors accounted for more direct employment in the state, the study found.

The study’s authors said they planned to release a more comprehensive and up-to-date version of their research, based on company data for 2018, in July.