Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

Startup confidence in Silicon Valley this year is the lowest in over a decade, according to a Silicon Valley Bank report. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 09 December 2019

Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

  • Economists fear job clustering could have a “destructive” influence on society

WASHINGTON: A new analysis of where “innovation” jobs are being created in the US paints a stark portrait of a divided economy where the industries seen as key to future growth cluster in a narrowing set of places.

Divergence in job growth, incomes and future prospects between strong-performing cities and the rest of the country is an emerging focus of political debate and economic research. It is seen as a source of social stress, particularly since President Donald Trump tapped the resentment of left-behind areas in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Research from the Brookings Institution released on Monday shows the problem cuts deeper than many thought. Even cities that have performed well in terms of overall employment growth, such as Dallas, are trailing in attracting workers in 13 industries with the most productive private sector jobs.

Between 2005 and 2017, industries such as chemical manufacturing, satellite telecommunications and scientific research flocked to about 20 cities, led by well-established standouts San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Boston and San Diego, the study found. Combined, these mostly coastal cities captured an additional 6 percent of “innovation” jobs — some 250,000 positions.

Companies in those industries tend to benefit from being close to each other, with the better-educated employees they target also attracted to urban amenities.

Brookings Institution economist Mark Muro said he fears the trend risks becoming “self-reinforcing and destructive” as the workforce separates into a group of highly productive and high-earning metro areas and everywhere else.

Even though expensive housing, high wages, and congestion have prompted some tech companies to open offices outside of Silicon Valley, those moves have not been at scale. Most US metro areas are either losing innovation industry jobs outright or gaining no share, Muro wrote.

Over this decade, “a clear hierarchy of economic performance based on innovation capacity had become deeply entrenched,” Muro and co-author Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in the report. Across the 13 industries they studied, workers in the upper echelon of cities were about 50 percent more productive than in others.

For much of the post-World War Two period labor was more mobile, and the types of industries driving the economy did not cluster so intensely, a trend that started reversing around 1980.

Concerns that the US is separating effectively into two economies has sparked support for localized efforts to spread the benefits of economic growth.

The Federal Reserve has flagged it as a possible risk to overall growth, and some of the presidential candidates running for office in 2020 have rolled out proposals to address it. One aim of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imports from China and elsewhere is to revive ailing areas of the country.


BP said to be considering sale of Mideast ‘stranded assets’

Updated 08 August 2020

BP said to be considering sale of Mideast ‘stranded assets’

  • Major oil companies typically hold assets for the long term

LONDON: BP is preparing to sell a large chunk of its oil and gas assets even if crude prices bounce back from the COVID-19 crash because it wants to invest more in renewable energy, three sources familiar with BP’s thinking said.

The strategy was discussed at a BP executives meeting in July, the sources said, soon after the oil major lowered its long-term oil price forecast to $55 a barrel, meaning that $17.5 billion worth of its assets are no longer economically viable.

But even if crude prices bounce back to $65-$70 a barrel, BP is unlikely to put those assets back into its exploration plans and would instead use the better market conditions as an opportunity to sell them, the three sources said.

Major oil companies typically hold assets for the long term, even when crude prices plunge, with a view to start bringing more marginal production online when market conditions improve.

However, BP’s new divestment strategy, which has not previously been reported, means there will be no way back for the British energy company once it has offloaded its so-called stranded oil and gas assets.

BP did not respond to requests for comment.

The new strategy also sheds more light on chief executive Bernard Looney’s plan to reduce BP’s oil and gas production by 40 percent, or at least 1 million barrels per day, by 2030 while expanding into renewable energy.

“It is a simple calculation of natural production decline and planned divestment,” said a BP source, explaining how BP became the first big oil company to pledge a large cut in its oil output.

For decades, BP and rivals such as Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil have promised investors that production would continue to rise. But as climate activists, investors, banks and some governments raise pressure on the industry to reduce emissions to help cool the planet, European oil firms are changing tack and pledging to invest more in renewable energy sources.

US rivals are under less government pressure and have not made similar commitments on renewables.

“As we look at the outlook for BP over the next few years and as we see production declining by 40 percent it is clear we no longer need exploration to fund new growth,” Looney said this week. “We will not enter new countries to explore.”

He said that BP would continue to explore for oil near its existing production infrastructure as those barrels would be low cost — and help boost BP’s cash flow to fund its transition to cleaner energy.

BP also raised its target this week for returns from asset sales to $25 billion between 2020 and 2025, of which about $12 billion has already been lined up.

Parul Chopra, analyst at Rystad Energy, said in addition to Angola, he expected BP to move out of Azerbaijan, Oman, the UAE and Iraq.

Related