When it comes to adding technology jobs, not all states are created equal. A new Dice analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that, despite the national attention lavished on well-established tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and New York City’s Silicon Alley, smaller states often see the largest year-over-year percentage gains in new tech professionals.
Because many of these smaller states have a relatively tiny number of tech pros living within their borders, even incremental increases in headcount can translate into significant percentage gains. In states such as New York, on the other hand, many thousands of tech workers would need to join the workforce in order to make any significant difference in the overall numbers.
In the past few years, many of these smaller states have begun to aggressively cultivate tech communities, recognizing that tech hubs can translate into significant tax bases. This can also spike the growth rate.
But even as some smaller states make aggressive jumps up the list, old stalwarts continue to hold high rankings. Well-developed tech hubs always draw tech workers, especially since many of them boast mature university systems that can pipeline workers right into the local economy. Despite its sheer size, for example, California continues to enjoy a placement on this list, thanks in large part to dual tech hubs in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
With all that in mind, here are the eight states that enjoyed the largest percentage gains in tech workers in the first six months of 2016:
For the second year in a row, Utah ranks high in the list of fastest-growing states for technology jobs, thanks in large part to a lot of activity around Salt Lake City, which saw an 85 percent increase in tech-job postings last year. Salt Lake City offers a number of incentives for both startups and well-established tech firms: low taxes, a collection of local schools producing skilled workers, and the infrastructure to support both businesses and lifestyles. E-commerce retailers, video-game developers, and a few large software-makers all call the city home.
Outside of Salt Lake City, corporations and government agencies ranging from eBay to the National Security Agency (NSA) have taken advantage of the state’s wide-open spaces to build enormous datacenters. While individual datacenters don’t necessarily create a ton of jobs (sophisticated automation ensures that even the largest facilities only need a few dozen people to run), they can spark a good deal of local infrastructure investment—as well as attract other tech companies to the area.
For the past few years, in fits and starts, Detroit has attempted to retool itself as a technology hub. These efforts hinge not only on the automotive industry, which has added technology positions as it attempts to make vehicles “smarter,” but also traditional technology firms such as Amazon, which have opened offices in the city. Technology companies interested in autonomous driving, such as Google, have established labs in the Detroit area.
That influx of technology workers, in turn, has led to higher salaries. Earlier this year, a Dice analysis suggested that the average tech salary in Michigan grew 9.3 percent year-over-year, to reach $89,876.
Birmingham and Huntsville have retooled as up-and-coming technology hubs, hoping to pull in startups and investment. A few years ago, for example, Birmingham started the Innovation Depot, an incubator that encourages local tech firms to grow. Around that same time, Boeing set up a new research and development center in Huntsville.
Like many growing tech states, Alabama boasts a low cost of living relative to Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley, making it attractive to tech professionals who don’t want to spend the majority of their take-home pay on rent or a mortgage. And don’t discount the lifestyle amenities: Birmingham, for example, has some awesome food trucks.
With major universities pumping new STEM graduates into its hiring pipeline, and a host of incubators dedicated to creating the next great generation of startups, it’s no surprise that Illinois ranks high among the fastest-growing states for technology jobs. Chicago is riddled with investors, collaborative workspaces, and research centers that new tech firms need to thrive; many older tech companies have called the city home for quite some time.
Illinois also boasts another, often overlooked advantage when it comes to attracting tech firms (and tech pros): lots of non-tech enterprises call the state home. In turn, that creates a significant market (and an equally large test-bed) for B2B software created by area tech firms. There are definitely harder places to start a technology concern that targets businesses as customers.
Despite some fears of another economic bubble in the making, California’s Silicon Valley continues to draw substantial investment—and tech professionals. Tech giants such as Apple and Google are in an expansionary phase, adding hundreds of new people and opening shiny new offices. Area startups continue drawing venture funding, although much more money is spilling towards those that have proven revenue models and business plans.
But the Bay Area isn’t the sole locus of California’s tech growth: Los Angeles, home to Snapchat and other prominent tech firms, has developed into a hub that can more than hold its own. While the average tech salary in Silicon Valley hit $118,243 last year, Los Angeles wasn’t far behind, with an average of $105,091.
Over the past several years, Massachusetts tech firms have generated tens of thousands of jobs, leading to job growth that has outpaced the general market. According to COmpTIA’s 2015 Cyberstates report, one in 10 Massachusetts workers is employed in a technology field such as software or telecommunications. Or as the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council framed things last year: there are 17 open tech jobs for every qualified recent graduate.
Large firms such as EMC call Boston home, and Cambridge houses substantial research-and-development groups. Earlier this year, Boston came in just behind Los Angeles on Dice’s list of cities with the fastest tech-salary growth, with a year-over-year increase of 6.6 percent and an average salary of $103,675.
Atlanta has fought hard over the past few years to make a name for itself as an up-and-coming tech hub. According to NPR, venture capitalists are showering local startups with more attention (and cash), and emerging tech firms have a reputation for focusing on business fundamentals and balance sheets. Like many big cities, Atlanta comes with several built-in advantages when it comes to fostering a homegrown technology industry: easy access to universities and research hubs, infrastructure that can support businesses and employees’ families, and a somewhat-lower cost of living.
Eastern Maryland’s proximity to Washington D.C. makes it a beneficiary of the federal government’s need for tech contractors. Many Maryland tech firms (and tech pros) service the feds’ infrastructure and analytics needs, all while drawing a lot of talent from Johns Hopkins and other local schools. The state’s average tech salary stands at $104,570, reflective of employers’ need for talent.