Gingrich, Romney push high-tech job creation as US lead slips

U.S. job losses in recent years — especially high-paying technology jobs — are a startling reality that even the Obama administration is having to acknowledge, however reluctantly. As the Florida presidential primary looms just five days away, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are both ratcheting up their job-creation rhetoric.

The U.S. has lost nearly 30 percent of its technology jobs in recent years, according to a new report from the National Science Board, an advisory panel for the National Science Foundation. Asia is becoming the world’s technology job leader, the report indicates.

The National Science Board reported this month that the U.S. lost 687,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs since 2000, and that 85 percent of new research and development-related job growth for U.S. technology companies occurred overseas.

Although the report portrays that decline as one spread out over the past 10 years, other data indicate a steep slide in recent months. The hiring website indicates that tech hiring in the United States plunged by 15.3 percent during the last year alone.

“The number of technology jobs in the U.S. has been down for some time, in particular jobs related to the production of hardware,” Simply Hired CEO Gautam Godhwani told The Daily Caller.

Gingrich told Miami media Wednesday that Obama’s policies constitute the “most anti-job” agenda ever pursued by a U.S. president. Romney called on Obama to stop shifting blame and do something dramatic to foster job creation.

“Aren’t you the leader of the free world,” Romney rhetorically asked an absent Obama Wednesday morning. “Why don’t you draft some legislation?”

U.S. employment in high-technology manufacturing peaked 12 years ago with 2.5 million jobs, the National Science Board report found, during the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Some other recent surveys, like one this week from the recruiting firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas, indicate that tech hiring has picked up in recent weeks.

Examples of tech contraction are seemingly everywhere.

Wells Fargo in November announced that it was cutting 25 staff and leaving 30 positions unfilled in IT, in order to save $188 million. State Street Financial slashed 850 IT jobs last summer, primarily in Boston. The computing giant Cisco Systems, the cell-phone company Nokia and Blackberry maker RIM collectively announced last year that they had cut 10,000 jobs.

Even Obama, who last year blamed ATMs and factory automation for the loss of many American jobs, agrees there is a problem. A source close to a major job search website told TheDC that the Chinese have been surging ahead of the U.S. in creating and nurturing startups and encouraging innovation for years, even with the Obama administration investing in technology.

Competitive Enterprise Institute economic analyst Hans Bader called the president the “outsourcer-in-chief” in an e-mail to TheDC. He said jobs that can be performed here in the U.S. have increasingly moved overseas during the Obama administration’s first three years.

But what could the leading GOP candidates — Gingrich and Romney — do to reverse this seeming trend from the Oval Office?

During a Jan. 7 debate in New Hampshire, Gingrich said the U.S. needs to focus on developing technological infrastructure. “You cannot compete with China in the long run if you have an inferior infrastructure. You’ve got to move to a 21st-century model. That means you’ve got to be technologically smart and you have to make investments,” he said.

Romney has also written and spoken about improving America’s technology infrastructure, but focuses mostly on lowering tax rates and reforming the tax code so more businesses can thrive.

During an Iowa debate on Dec. 10, the former governor said he disagrees with Gingrich’s view of the government’s role in tech job creation.

“Speaker Gingrich and I have a lot of places where we disagree,” said Romney. “We can start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon, I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that.”

Gingrich retorted, “I’m proud of trying to find things that give young people a reason to study science and math and technology, and telling them that someday in their lifetime they could dream of going to the moon — they could dream of going to Mars.”