Behind everything electronic is a chip. And while many manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, the chip industry is still an economic juggernaut in the U.S.

The semiconductor chip industry now employs about 244,800 people in the U.S., according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. The industry added jobs three times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy (3.7 percent versus 1.2 percent for the overall U.S. economy, according to recently released 2011 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The job count is based on direct jobs created by semiconductor companies. Indirect jobs are even more. The $300 billion chip industry is a bellwether for the tech economy, and semiconductor chips are the foundation for the $1.1 trillion high-tech industry that employs nearly 6 million U.S. workers.

“Semiconductor workers – a quarter of a million strong and growing – are creating the technology breakthroughs that improve our lives, strengthen our country and build our future,” said Brian Toohey, SIA president and CEO. “Through their hard work, the U.S. semiconductor industry continues to create jobs and spur growth despite a challenging national economy.”

The data is based on the actual count by the BLS, plus an estimate for the number of jobs created by fabless semiconductor firms, or those that design but do not manufacture their own chips.

“Semiconductor job growth is an encouraging sign for our industry and the U.S. economy,” said Toohey. “With effective government policies that encourage growth and remove barriers to innovation, the semiconductor industry will continue to drive America’s economic strength, national security and global competitiveness.”

[Image credit: Joseph Rupp]