BOSTON (State House News Service) – Aided by favorable state tax policies, the growing life sciences sector in Massachusetts now features 132,000 jobs and a new report predicts another 42,000 new jobs will come online in the industry over the next decade.
The report touts a positive outlook for the industry that policymakers have embraced and incentivized, but also features more warning signs that demand for talent continues to outpace supply in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation’s 2023 Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Outlook report recommends “reinvigorated recruitment and retention approaches,” noting rapid growth in computing and information technology jobs to support the sector.
Authors projected that the number of life sciences jobs in Massachusetts will grow by roughly a third in the next decade. They expect more than 6,600 average job openings per year in “key” occupations such as biotechnicians and medical lab technicians, but the report said one challenge is that Massachusetts colleges and universities are only producing “half of this amount from new graduates in degree fields most aligned with these openings.”
Looking ahead, more than 8,500 of the projected new jobs will be scientists, about 7,000 will be management positions, and computing and IT jobs are projected to account for more than 5,300 new jobs over the next decade.
MassBioEd said the industry also has substantial needs in “‘secondary’ or non-life sciences fields of expertise,” like IT, sales, marketing and data sciences. Employers will need to boost awareness about job openings “across a broader set of degree programs and educational settings,” the report said.
Between 2019 and 2022, employment at Massachusetts life sciences companies increased 14.6 percent, compared to a 9.4 percent jump for the country as a whole, according to the report.
However, that growth has been uneven across different industry segments. In Massachusetts, jobs in the biopharmaceutical and medical lab sector surged nearly 22 percent between 2019 and 2022, while employment dropped 3.6 percent at hospitals and research hospitals and fell 16.2 percent at colleges and universities, the report said.
The industry is also significantly concentrated in the state’s more densely populated eastern region, with nearly 90,000 workers in just two counties.
More than 74,000 life sciences workers, representing nearly 70 percent of the field, are located in Middlesex County where major companies like AstraZeneca and Biogen anchor the Cambridge hotspot. Suffolk County, which is home to Boston, had the second-highest number of life sciences workers with 15,000.
Worcester, Essex and Norfolk Counties each had fewer than 10,000 life sciences worker, according to the report, which also lumped the nine other counties into a “rest of the state” category that similarly claimed fewer than 10,000 life sciences workers.
Beacon Hill has long embraced special policies to support the innovative sector. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center announced $24.4 million in tax incentive awards to 43 life sciences companies, with the expectation that nearly 1,600 new jobs will be created.
In 2008, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a 10-year, $1 billion law packed with incentives and aids for the life sciences industry, including $500 million in state borrowing to fund capital projects, $250 million in tax breaks for companies that create Massachusetts jobs, and $250 million for research grants.
Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018 signed another $473 million law keeping state sweeteners in place. The Legislature approved the measure while the BIO International Convention was in Boston, and Rep. Joseph Wagner said at the time that it would keep offering $30 million annually in tax incentives for another decade and recapitalize an investment fund by $50 million over five years, plus $295 million in capital for infrastructure projects.
Lawmakers extended that bonding last year, moving the expiration date from June 2023 to June 2025, and Gov. Maura Healey is likely working on new plans.
“You’re going to hear us talk a lot about things this month related to life sciences, so I’ll hold on some of that,” Healey said Tuesday when asked about another reauthorization, adding that investing in the industry is an “absolute imperative.”
The BIO conference, whose arrival prompted previous governors to launch public campaigns for biotech incentives, returns to Boston on June 5 with hopes of attracting attendees to the Massachusetts Pavilion at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Life sciences supporters are rolling out announcements ahead of that.
Last week, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council announced plans to launch a nonprofit to link underrepresented populations and individuals with life sciences training pathways and employer connections. Bioversity will operate a 4,000-square-foot workforce training center in Dorchester at the Southline Boston development on the site of the old Boston Globe headquarters.
MassBioEd is holding its 8th Annual Life Sciences Workforce Conference Wednesday at UMass Boston.