Biotech payrolls boom along with sales, while Big Pharma jobs keep disappearing

Biotech is booming, there's no escaping that fact. And once again, an employment report shows that the biotech boom extends to job growth that beats pharma. Once again, biotech payrolls are burgeoning as pharma's falter.

Nationwide, the pharma industry saw employment drop to 277,113 in 2013 from 291,795 in 2003, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But biotech employment grew to 142,475 from 135,424 from 2007 to 2013.

The pharma data come from companies in the government category "pharma and medicine manufacturing," while biotech numbers come from companies doing R&D in biotech, the Inquirer notes.

The numbers mirror other employment surveys showing that Big Pharma payrolls largely haven't recovered from the waves of layoffs triggered by patent-cliff losses and megamerger "synergies." According to a report from EvaluatePharma from 2003 to 2013, Big Pharma reduced their workforces by about 3% altogether.

Meanwhile, Big Biotech has been adding workers up a storm, with a doubling in the size of its workforce from 2003 to 2013, according to EvaluatePharma. And smaller companies have added staff overall, too.

It's all part of pharma's efficiency drive in the face of sales that are slow-growing at best--and for some major companies, still shrinking. As for biotech, some of the biggest in the crowd have leapfrogged into the top 15 companies by sales, elbowing aside Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) in the process. It makes sense that employment would follow suit.

Plus, as Pennsylvania BIO's Chris Molineaux points out, pharma has been on an outsourcing binge, turning to contractors for everything from research to sales and marketing.

"Over the last 10 years, the pharma industry has been contracting and consolidating with mergers and acquisitions, but also outsourcing many of the functions that were historically held in-house, functions that every pharma company has and considers almost a commodity," Molineaux told the Inquirer. "Another big factor is that their pipelines, their R&D machines, have not been producing as much or as efficiently as they once did, and they are looking outside to start-ups."

The good news for pharma is that the pace of layoffs has slowed significantly in the last couple of years, with thousands rather than tens of thousands of jobs lost annually. Still, the top 10 pharma companies had 29,720 fewer employees at the end of 2013 than at the end of 2012, according to FiercePharma research.

- see the Inquirer story

Special Reports: The largest biopharma layoffs of 2014 | Top 10 pharma companies by employees - 2014