Tech Companies Woo Economists

Tech companies were among the employers wooing young economists at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting recently in Philadelphia.

Data AnalysisIn the past few years, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have organized teams of economists to sift through their reams of data and spot market trends.

“It used to be that if you got a Ph.D. in economics, you went to government, you went to academics, you went to a consulting firm, or you went to Wall Street,” Greg Rosston, Deputy Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, told Bloomberg News. “Now there’s another option.”

Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and eBay are among the tech companies that have advertised openings on the AEA’s website in the past few months. However, so far those companies’ teams of economists remain small – eBay, for example, employs just four.

At these companies, the economists’ work has guided the direction of products or helped to improve services, such as making a site a better platform for advertisers.

“The pace is just so much faster here and I’m much happier solving a lot of different problems than focusing on one problem for seven years,” says Michael Bailey, 30, an economist at Facebook. “The data’s just so awesome,” he says. “It’s an economist’s dream.”

And with shrinking budgets at many universities, tech company jobs can be more lucrative. Economist salaries at companies in computer systems design and related services averaged $122,930 in 2012, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with the $99,480 that economists averaged overall during the same period.