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Life sciences hold up in recession

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Indiana’s life sciences companies held up better than their peers around the country—and far better than the rest of Indiana's private sector—during the early phases of the economic downturn.

That trend came through in a report released last week by the Biotechnology Industry Organization at its annual convention in Boston.

The report showed that—from 2007, the peak of the boom times, to 2010—Indiana’s life sciences companies shed about 420 jobs overall, or about 0.7 percent. The job loss rate was twice as high among life sciences firms nationally—and more than 10 times higher among all of Indiana’s private employers.

Meanwhile, during the same three-year period, wages for Indiana’s life sciences jobs rose 3.9 percent, to an annual average of $85,100. Wages at life sciences firms nationally rose just 0.6 percent during that period, to $82,700.

Wages among all of Indiana’s private-sector businesses fell a sharp 7.9 percent from 2007 to 2010, to an annual average of $49,500.

Those data, the most recent available, were produced by Ohio-based research firm Battelle, using job and wage figures for 27 life sciences-related industry subgroups, which were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This again shows that the investments made over a decade ago are paying off,” said Kristin Jones, CEO of the Indiana Health Industry Forum, which is the Indiana affiliate of the Boston-based Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Interestingly, Indiana struggled most in the pharmaceutical sector during the 2007 to 2010 period. With Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. cutting more than 1,000 jobs here in 2010, employment in that sector tumbled 12.2 percent, to 17,141 workers.

The jobs that remain, however, tend to pay more than before. While pharmaceutical jobs experienced almost no increase in wages from 2001 to 2007, they surged 20 percent from 2007 to 2010, when they averaged $127,600 per worker.

Battelle’s analysis marked out states that have a specialization in each of five life sciences sectors, which include pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, medical devices, research and biosciences distribution. A state was determined to have a specialization if its jobs per capita in one of those sectors was more than 20 percent higher than the national average.

No state had a specialization in all five sectors. Only Indiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico had specializations in four out of five of the sectors. The only sector  in which Indiana lagged was research, where it has 20 percent fewer jobs per capita than the national average.

“Our industry here is both diverse and deep, and we’re now fully positioned to do even more,” David Johnson, CEO of the Indianapolis-based life sciences development group BioCrossroads, said in a prepared statement. “In fact, and especially at this time of challenge and change, it is critical that we continue to build from strength and pursue opportunities to encourage growth, innovation and support.”

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