Mass. leads nation in life sciences jobs, says report

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey | The Boston Globe | June 19, 2014

Massachusetts’ workforce has the nation’s highest concentration of jobs in biotechnology, medical technology, and other life sciences fields, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 113,000 people in the state work in life sciences, making the sector about as big as the state’s construction industry.

The biggest chunk of life sciences workers, more than 45,000, are in research and development. Thousands more work at manufacturers, universities, and hospitals, according to the Northeastern University report.

“It’s time to acknowledge it has become one of the pillars of the Massachusetts economy,” said Gregory Bialecki, the state’s secretary of Housing and Economic Development.

In sheer numbers of jobs, the state ranks sixth, behind California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. But when adjusted for population, Massachusetts is the clear leader, the report said.

About 17,000 per 1 million Massachusetts workers are employed in life sciences, which is 1.3 times the rate in New Jersey, 1.8 times the rate in California and Pennsylvania, and 2.3 times the rate in New York, the report found.

“Massachusetts, in the life sciences, has leapfrogged other states in the last six or seven years,” said Barry Bluestone, the director of Northeastern’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and a coauthor of the report.

State officials credit the growth of the life sciences industry to a $1 billion public initiative launched six years ago. Since then, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has doled out $535 million in loans, grants, and other spending, resulting in about $1.5 billion in additional private investment, according to the center.

Bluestone said those incentives helped the industry expand even during the economic recession. Life sciences employment grew 17.5 percent between 2006 and 2012, while overall employment in Massachusetts inched up 1.4 percent. “It actually buoyed the economy quite a bit,” Bluestone said.

Competition for life sciences jobs is fierce. Massachusetts officials will be at a big biotech convention in San Diego next week to try to lure more high-paying research and development jobs to the Bay State.

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