IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Tech Workforce Trends: State by State

The prospects for those with computer and network skills are virtually unlimited today. In fact, despite years of expansion and increasing demand, the tech industry remains one of the strongest and most lucrative job markets. U.S. tech sector employment grew to an estimated 6.9 million in 2016, an increase of 182,220 workers or 2.7% from 2015 as detailed in CompTIA’s latest Cyberstates report (as well as on our interactive web page).

Members of the class of 2017 should feel very optimistic. Demand for technically-trained high school graduates (those with certifications and hands-on experience) is strong. The opportunities for those completing their IT studies at two-year, four year, and graduate institutions continue to grow.

In fact, high-tech professionals should have a fair number of options today, though several factors will influence the opportunities available in their area. Career options and wages tend to vary significantly between states and regions.

IT is no different than other industries. Those with limited or highly specialized skills, or with little practical experience, may need to relocate to find the best opportunities. For example, market demand for developers and security professionals is typically much higher in California than it would be in smaller states with fewer businesses to employ them. For example, the annual wage for a CA-based tech sector worker grew to $154,000 in 2016 — the most in the U.S.

From the channel perspective, demand can be both good and bad. If providers, vendors and distributors operate in tight tech labor markets, wages and worker demands will be higher. Common factors that influence IT salaries include labor supply and demand, cost of living, and environment.

The latter can be geographic and/or work-related. It may be easier to attract hungry new recruits to thriving cities and warm, sunny locales than it is to get a top candidate to move to a smaller community in the rust belt. Work environment is also a key factor. Businesses with a supportive, enriching setting typically attract the best recruits. That may help explain why those “best places to work” designations are so eagerly sought by businesses, and heavily promoted by those making the grade.

Key Trends

CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2017 aggregates and simplifies a mountain of IT industry employment data. Our team looked at the trends, industry size, average wages, workforce profiles, innovation metrics, and a lot of other factors — compiling it all in an easy to follow report you can download here.

Here’s a snapshot of today’s IT industry:  

  • 7.3 million tech occupation workers employed across all industries in the U.S.
  • 492,550 tech business establishments
  • An estimated $1.3 trillion, or 7.5 percent, of the U.S. economy
  • 26,560 postings for tech occupation job openings in Q4 of 2016
  • The average annual wage of a U.S. tech industry worker is $108,900; more than double the national average wage!
  • IT occupations added over 115,000 net-new jobs in 2016, a year-over-year growth rate of 2.6%.
  • Software developers, computer systems analysts, and IT support specialists recorded the largest gains in employment. These four occupations added 71,450 new jobs, accounting for over half of the increase.
  • Approximately 46% of the tech sector workforce consists of tech occupation jobs. The remaining 54% are in support roles such as sales, human resources, and finance.

Channel companies may not be as focused on the national numbers. State and local conditions usually garner higher interest, especially when it comes to available talent and wages. Those looking to hire, or to change working conditions, need to know more about the local workforce and what it takes to attract the right people. For example, it can be difficult for IT services providers to find and hire good employees when the demand far outweighs the supply.

Wages and working conditions must be competitive in high growth areas, if not significantly better, to attract and retain the best talent. The 2017 Cyberstates report highlighted several trends that may affect the pool of talent available to channel firms:              

  • The top five states for job growth in 2016 were Utah (6.0 percent), North Carolina (5.9 percent), Michigan (5.1 percent), Washington (4.9 percent), and Montana (4.5 percent).
  • Thirty-six states generated positive tech sector job growth, while the remaining 15 experienced job losses.
  • The largest declines were in Delaware, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
  • Massachusetts has the highest concentration (8.7 percent) of tech sector workers.

Interested in finding how where your state ranks? Check out our online tool, CompTIA Cyberstates, a comprehensive, visual guide of national, state, and metropolitan area tech workforce analytics. Cyberstates aggregates mountains of data and transforms it into easy to understand visuals and actionable insights.

Tim Herbert is Senior Vice President of Research & Market Intelligence at CompTIA

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About the Author

With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.