Pop quiz: What’s the fastest-growing state for technology jobs?
You might be tempted to say California or New York, or even North Carolina. But according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s actually Minnesota, which saw the size of its tech workforce jump 8.36 percent over the past six months, to 37,600 workers.
Utah and Nebraska came in second and third on the list of fastest-growing states, with six-month tech-employment gains of 5.75 percent and 5.22 percent, respectively. Michigan and Florida came in fourth and fifth. States with smallish tech-worker populations can enjoy heady growth rates by adding relatively few workers.
The unemployment rate for tech professionals averaged 2.1 percent in the second quarter, down slightly from 2.3 percent in the first quarter; in theory, at least, declining unemployment will drive employers to offer better salaries and perks in order to attract top talent, and increase hiring as their companies expand. But not all states saw their tech workforce grow in the first half of 2015. Four states—Pennsylvania, Washington, North Carolina, and Alabama—actually saw their workforce decline by 0.61 percent, 0.63 percent, 2.36 percent, and 3.52 percent, respectively, during the period in question.
The declines in Washington and North Carolina may come as a surprise to anyone following those states’ tech industries, which are quite robust. Raleigh, N.C., has a seemingly continual need for data analysts, software engineers, and senior architects to work at firms throughout the area’s Research Triangle. Washington, meanwhile, is the home of Amazon and other major tech firms, along with a host of startups.
In Washington’s case, layoffs at Microsoft and other firms over the past few months may have contributed to the slight decline. North Carolina’s dip is slightly harder to pin down, although its overall tech population is small enough (45,600 employees by June 2015) to be affected by reorganizations and layoffs at only a small handful of firms.
If past trends hold, though, those states in decline could quickly flip into growth mode. In tech, the landscape—no matter what the state—can change very quickly.