California’s Silicon Valley long has served as the nation’s technology hub. But while Silicon Valley remains a global leader for tech firms and jobs, technology’s transformative impact on the economy and society is driving job growth across the United States. Led by employers — and even entire industries — that did not exist a generation ago, many of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. are in the fields of science, technology and mathematics. The long-running trend of growth in these fields shows few signs of slowing down.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in computer and math occupations has outpaced the national average since 2008. The gap has grown larger over the last decade, and the trend is likely to continue. According to the BLS, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow by 11% over the next decade, adding more than 500,000 jobs to the economy. And unlike many jobs that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, computer and IT occupations are largely remote-friendly, which positions them well for continued growth.
Some states have seen the benefit of this job growth more than others. Driven by a high number of firms specializing in defense, information technology and other professional services for the federal government, Virginia leads the nation with 5.6% of its workers employed in computer and math occupations. Washington — home to a strong aerospace engineering sector and tech giants Microsoft and Amazon — is second, with Maryland, Colorado and Massachusetts following behind.
In the small metro category, St. Joseph ranks at 105, with 1.3% of the share of employment being in computer and math occupations, similar to cities like Bangor, Maine, and Yuma, Arizona.
“It’s a continuingly growing field, especially in places like St. Joseph, where the biggest employers are medical and IT. Those are jobs that are needed and pay well,” Maxwell Gooding, a computer repair specialist in St. Joseph, said.
Those numbers show 690 jobs in the field with a median wage of $62,030, a large amount above the median wage of $35,700 for all occupations in the city.
“These are the big-paying (jobs). Plus, St. Joseph is cheaper than working in Silicon Valley. You can make nice money and not have to lose it all to rent,” Gooding said.
Statewide trends do not tell the whole story of tech employment either, as employers in high-tech fields tend to cluster in local regions where the labor market can supply the specialized knowledge required for those positions. This often means that metro areas with many well-established innovative companies, strong institutions of higher education, or both — like Silicon Valley — tend to be the areas that incubate many of the firms that drive job growth in tech.
To see which metro areas have the most tech jobs, researchers at Spanning used data from the BLS’s 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics Survey to identify metros with the largest share of employment in computer and math occupations. The researchers also calculated the total number of jobs, wages and wage premiums for computer and math occupations in each metro. To improve relevance, metros were also grouped into population cohorts of small (100,000 to 349,999 residents), midsize (350,000 to 999,999 residents) and large (1,000,000 or more residents).
News-Press NOW reporter Andrew Gaug contributed to this story.