Working in tech used to mean being based in the traditional hub of Silicon Valley. But the pandemic and remote work have dispersed the industry more than ever, and tech jobs are booming as a result.
Many tech workers have left expensive coastal cities for more affordable pastures. And the new cities and states that have received the massive population influx have become mini tech hubs of their own, according to a new survey by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), a trade organization representing tech companies across the country.
Tech jobs exploded during the pandemic, the survey found. And tech jobs that were offered remotely were in particularly high supply. These remote jobs saw a 421% increase compared to other occupations during the pandemic.
“We just saw explosive growth in the industry over the last several years, and the pandemic put it on hyperdrive in terms of the need for tech workers,” TECNA CEO Jennifer Young told Fortune.
The country’s new tech hubs
The survey found that the established tech hubs of California and New York continue to lead, but new states have emerged over the past few years to make the job market even bigger.
The states with the highest rate of growth in tech industry jobs during the pandemic are:
- Tennessee (7.6% increase in tech worker jobs)
- Idaho (7.5%)
- Washington (6.6%)
- Utah (5.3%)
- North Carolina (4.9%)
- Mississippi (4.7%)
- Arizona (4.5%)
- Arkansas (4.4%)
- Texas (4.3%)
- Kentucky (4.3%)
Individual cities that have had a boom in tech jobs were scattered across the country, far from New York and California. The top five cities by percent growth in the number of tech workers were:
- Houston (8.9%)
- Orlando (8.3%)
- New York (8.1%)
- Charlotte (8.0%)
- Los Angeles (7.9%)
Many tech employees decided to move during the pandemic, but continued to work for large tech companies such as Google and Apple that allowed remote work for two years. They did so largely for the same reasons as other remote workers: better living standards for a better price.
“These are areas that have a great quality of life and are attracting people who have the ability to work remotely now,” said Michael Church, CFO of data visualization company eImpact—which collaborated with Tecna on the survey—told Fortune. “They are very attractive places for young families.”
Will these new tech hubs survive?
The tech industry is going through some big changes, which could impact the long-term future of these new tech cities.
Some tech companies—including Google, Microsoft, and Apple—have begun implementing return-to-office requirements for their employees. This could threaten the remote work model that has permitted new towns to thrive.
Workers are fighting to hold onto their new-found flexibility. But Young envisions a drop in the number of remote workers, and potentially slower growth in the cities that previously benefited.
“We saw this ridiculous percentage of employees go to remote work,” she said. “Whether that is going to drop again, we don’t know. But I have a hard time believing it’s going to stay that high.”
But while workers at major tech companies may have to adjust their lifestyles, the pandemic also saw an entrepreneurial boom, with many new tech startups founded across the country. Places like Salt Lake City and Boise have emerged as some of the most popular for tech startups.
Should these towns stay popular, the country’s tech landscape might stay diversified well beyond the pandemic.
“The opportunity is there now in these cities because there are workers that may have gone there throughout the pandemic that weren’t there before and realize they really want to stay there and they like it there. And they might say hey, while we’re here, let’s start a company,” Young said.
These changes might even change what it means to be a tech hub, which may no longer be dominated by large corporations centralized in a few cities and states.
“Traditionally, a tech hub has been where the employer concentration is,” Church said. “But now our data suggests we may need to take a second look at what defines a tech hub.”
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