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Are Gadgets Bringing Jobs Back to Silicon Valley?

ARE GADGETS BRINGING JOBS BACK TO SILICON VALLEY?  by Scott Budman

How’s this for an image? Sitting on an old couch, in our about-to-be-foreclosed home, wearing nothing (OK, maybe a barrel), buried in debt, but deliriously happy, because we’re surfing our favorite social networking websites on our smartphone, while programming our TiVos.

We may be staying home, but we’re still buying lots of cool gear.

A new survey taken by Silicon Valley gadget-watcher Retrevo says that, although the economy is still down, consumers are not yet ready to show up to the party without the latest cool phone, and are picking up digital TV sets to watch the new season of “Entourage.”

You’re probably already sick of the term “staycation,” but the Retrevo folks actually say the whole staycation trend seems to be helping business in Silicon Valley. Lots of gadget sales mean lots of profits for tech companies like Apple, HP, Palm, and Intel. Even those who are traveling are stocking up on GPS devices, which also benefit several Silicon Valley firms.

The proof in the pudding? Jobs. As the rest of the country continues to shed jobs, the Valley is adding them. The May jobs report showed a gain of 400 jobs in Silicon Valley. Not a huge jump, and the number is still down quite a bit from this time last year, but it’s an actual gain in the teeth of a recession.

How does the industry manage this trick? Another Silicon Valley company, Upmo.com (short for “Upwardly Mobile”), says the region’s enthusiasm for social networking means job opportunities are snapped up before they even get listed. More than job boards, Upmo.com says it’s these informal contacts that keep the local job world moving. A more nimble job market means a faster recovery in employment.

So there you have it. We’re staying at home this summer, but playing around just the same. Less travel, fewer home sales, the retail industry in the tank, but, hey, crank up the Wii and the iPhone and enjoy the summer. Silicon Valley’s newly employed thank you.

[For more Scott Budman stories and videos, please visit www.nbcbayarea.com.]