Semiconductors and their applications are everywhere from PCs to Chevrolets, but fewer than 250,000 Americans are actually employed to make them, the Semiconductor Industry Association said.
The Washington-based trade group's members include the top chipmakers headed by Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC), Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ:TXN) and Freescale Semiconductor (NYSE:FSL), which employ many more workers outside the country. It didn't offer global statistics.
But it said the 244,800 workers employed in the domestic chip industry through Nov. 30 rose about 3.7 percent above 2011, compared with overall job growth of only 1.2 percent for the year.
The SIA figures also include people employed in the so-called “fabless” chip sector, or companies like LSI (NYSE:LSI) or Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA) that design chips but have them manufactured by contractors.
The trade group estimated the workers underpin the overall U.S. technology sector, which it estimated accounts for $1.1 trillion annually.
The SIA announcement followed last month's publication of half-year statistics by TechAmerica, another industry group that succeeded the American Electronics Association, which said 6 million Americans worked in the technology sector on June 30, or 3.3 percent more than in 2011.
The TechAmerica report said the fastest-growing sector was software, which added 50,800 jobs in the first half, followed by engineering and technology services, which added 49,900 jobs, and technology management, which added 9,200 positions.
Brian Toohey, president of the SIA, said chipmakers now employ skilled workers across all regions. He praised government policies “that promote growth and innovation.”
California, no surprise, accounted for the greatest number of semiconductor workers, 47,100, followed by Texas with 28,800, Oregon with 23,400, Arizona with 18,800 and Massachusetts with 10,100.
New York, where two new plants are near completion, had 7,600 chip-related jobs, followed by Idaho, with 7,400, Florida with 7,100, Vermont with 5,100 and New Mexico, with 4,500.
The statistics reflect states where the largest chipmakers, Intel, Texas Instruments, Freescale, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) Micron Technologies (NYSE:MU) and private GlobalFoundries, have their principal factories.
There may be changes by Dec. 31 in semiconductor employment.
Texas Instruments, for example, last month said it would cut 1,700 manufacturing jobs mainly in its wireless chip sector, although not all of these may be in the U.S. The unit could be sold to another company.
But others, such as IM Flash Technologies, a joint-venture company controlled by Micron Technology (NYSE:MU) and Intel, have said they planned to expand their payrolls.
Shares of Texas Instruments rose 4 percent on Tuesday, while those of Intel rose nearly 3 percent, with Freescale shares gaining 5.6 percent and Micron's 1.5 percent.
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...