Where The Tech Jobs Grow

Jun 6, 2016

As this Reuters article from a few days ago notes, despite concerns about aslowdown in hiring in America, the job market for technology jobs across the United States remains quite strong. One thing that I was curious about, however, is figuring out which American cities have the most tech jobs available.

Unsurprisingly, there’s an abundance of tech job openings posted for the regions of New York City, Baltimore-Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, Boston andChicago. Although the 10 most populous metros in my list have approximately a third of America’s population, these 10 cities contain nearly two-thirds of the nation’s tech jobs.

However, a more useful way to discover what the best cities are for tech jobs is to find out which cities have a high number of tech jobs relative to its population. For instance, Los Angeles has a high number of tech jobs posted, but given its enormous population, the tech industry is relatively small in the City of Angels. In a similar vein, Houston has been touted as a booming city over the past decade, but the relative shares of tech jobs in Space City certainly raises some eyebrows (though, to be fair, the fall in oil prices over the past couple years could definitely be a big factor in Houston’s current weakness). Conversely, smaller cities such asAustin, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, Des Moines, Iowa, Salt Lake City, Utah andBoise, Idaho have a high number of tech jobs relative to their fairly small populations.

I used New York City as a baseline to compare other cities to. I selected most of the fifty largest metro regions in the area, along with some other cities that interested me to round out my list of fifty U.S. metros. In some cases, I combined cities, given that someone living in between the two cities could easily work in either city. The cities that I combined were Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, San Jose, CA and San Francisco, CA, Rochester, NY and Buffalo, NY, and Raleigh, NC and Durham, NC. Here’s how I came up with the numbers:

  • Starting with a 25-mile radius around New York City, I searched for all jobs that contained the word ‘SQL’ that were posted on Indeed.com in the past fifteen days. There’s obviously a lot of terms that I could have used to find the number of “tech jobs”. SQL is a fairly easy-to-learn language used to, among other things, find information in databases. What I like about SQL is that it is a tool that is used by both engineers as well as less-technical, but still highly-paid workers, such as financial analysts, marketers, and business intelligence analysts.
  • I next did the same search for the 25-mile radius around Los Angeles, California. Using Census data, I found that the Los Angeles metro has approximately 78% of the population of the New York City metro, so, all else equal, the greater Los Angeles area should have 78% as many tech jobs as the greater Big Apple region. However, the greater Los Angeles region had only 47% as many “SQL jobs” in the past fifteen days as the greater NYC region. Adjusting for its smaller population, on a per-person basis, there are only 60% as many tech jobs in the greater Los Angeles area as there is in the greater New York City area. Economic planners in the LA region such as Dr. Christine Cooper are well aware of this disappointing data, and this less-than-ideal trend was recently covered in the Los Angeles Times.
  • I next did the same search for Chicago. The so-called “Second City”, in actuality America’s third-largest metro region, is the only large American city to lose population, but those in the City of Broad Shoulder’s professional class are doing quite well. The Windy City metro has 42% the population of “SQL jobs” as the NYC metro, but fascinatingly 48% as many tech jobs as the New York City region. Adjusted for population, there are 115% as many tech jobs in Chicagoland as there are in Gotham. The stark contrast in Chicago between the boom among the wealthy and the unending stream of murders among its poor is quite disturbing.
  • I next did a search for the Baltimore-DC corridor. I used Laurel, Maryland as a central base. Located approximately twenty miles for both city, one living in Laurel could easily work in Charm City to the north or The Federal City to the south. Although the DMV area has only 41% of the population of the greater New York City area, it has a whopping 88% as many “SQL jobs” as the NYC area. On a per-person basis, there is more than twice as many “SQL jobs” in the greater Washington DC-Baltimore area as there are in the greater New York City area. Amazing. As an aside, I’d imagine that most of the tech jobs in the greater Washington D.C. area are working at large government institutions, so someone seeking the startup experience would likely be much happier job searching in Texas’ capital or in the Bay Area.
  • I continued this analysis on 46 other cities, as you can see below.

The method that I used is by no means exhaustive, but I do believe that it provides a high level insight into what cities one should seek out for various technical and analytical roles. This list does not account for the median salary of a “SQL job” in a given city or the cost of living in a city; I’ll discuss those issues in future posts. This list primarily seeks to measure which cities have the highest proportion of tech jobs.

The metro with the greatest number of “SQL jobs” postings is the New York City metro, followed quite closely by the Washington-Baltimore metro, and Silicon Valley. The problem with job searching in those cities is that, for any given job posting, hundreds of people will apply. Obviously you’ve got far more people competing with you for any one job opening in those large cities than you would have competing with you for any one job opening in booming Grand Rapids, MIor Omaha, NE.

Some of America’s most popular tourists destinations, unsurprisingly, have a relatively low share of tech jobs. Orlando, FL has a small vestige of a startup scene, but the metro still ranks last in the country among the 25 most populous regions for median income. Other popular vacation cities such as New Orleans, LA, Las Vegas, NV and Miami, FL tell similar stories as well. The historically oil-dependent cities of Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma City, OK, and Houston, TX struggle in my relative rankings as well.

On a population-adjusted basis, greater Austin towers over every other metro by a large margin, with 2.5x as many tech jobs per-person as greater NYC, and even 30% more tech jobs per-person than Silicon Valley. Truly amazing, and a testament to Austin’s greatness. The biggest downside to Austin, however, is the relatively small number of postings on an absolute basis: approximately just thirty “SQL job postings” per day. If you’re good at job searching, you can apply to every “SQL job” in the Live Music Capital of the World in less than two hours per day. Once you’ve done that every day, you’re on your own.

Here is a link to the full data set; you can sort it by population, job postings, relative population, and relative jobs per population.

What do you think? Do you find anything surprising about these numbers? Do you think that I missed anything, or made any mistakes in this post? Thanks for reading. I’d love to see your response in the comments below.

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