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Sunday, September 24, 2023
Sept. 24, 2023

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Tech jobs in Washington are growing despite layoffs in Seattle area


Despite recent tech layoffs hitting industry giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Meta, tech is still the growth industry in Washington.

Washington has the highest concentration of tech workers relative to its overall employment base — nearly 1 in 10 residents (9.4%) is in tech, higher than the national average of 5.8%.

This year, tech job openings in the state are projected to increase by nearly 4%, one of the largest increases projected in the U.S., according to a recently released report by CompTIA, one of the IT industry’s top trade associations.

Not only does the Evergreen State also feature in the Top 10 states for new tech businesses, it ranks first for job postings in emerging tech such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.

More than 40% of job openings are for technologies currently in the development stage and expected to be in wide use in the next five to 10 years, creating significant social or economic impacts.

It is no surprise then that the tech industry has a greater economic effect on Washington’s economy than it does in any other state.

At over $138 billion, the economic impact of the tech industry shaped 20% of the state economy — more than twice the national average of 8.8%.

In 2022, the state recorded nearly 350,000 jobs at tech companies or in tech-centric occupations. Over 80% were based in the Seattle metro area.

About 95% of tech’s economic impact — over $131 billion — is concentrated in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, where the industry accounts for nearly 30% of the local economy. Tech workers make up 12.9% of the workforce there.

Only the San Jose, Calif., metro records a greater tech economic impact on the local economy, at 57%.

Still, in California — Silicon Valley’s home ground — the tech industry accounted for less than 17% of the state economy despite producing a larger volume of goods and services (over $535 billion worth). The tech employment concentration is also lower at 7.7%.

These positive prospects notwithstanding, Black, Hispanic and women’s representation in Washington’s tech workforce is still lacking and Seattle fares even worse than the state as a whole.

Nationally, the state ranks among the lowest for its share of Black, Hispanic and women tech employees. As tech industry jobs and occupations tend to pay far better than other professions, that disparity entrenches socioeconomic inequities.

Major players in the industry have been focused on making tech more inclusive, and the data shows some progress has been made, said Marcus Courtney, an independent public affairs consultant in Seattle who co-authored a 2021 paper on equity issues in Washington’s tech workforce. Courtney founded WashTech/CWA, a tech workers union, and was part of the Washington State Future of Work task force.

“In particular Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google have produced some detailed reports trying to explicitly explain how their workforce stacks up on some key diversity issues,” he said. “And so over the decade, you can see there’s some basic benchmarking that’s going on.”

This has led to an improvement in women’s representation, yet women remain rare in technical roles, Courtney pointed out. “And the highest-paying tech jobs are in the computer programming, technical and senior leadership roles.”

Since the tech industry allows for a large immigrant workforce through the H-1B visa program particularly popular with Indian workers, Asians are overrepresented in the workforce. Black and Hispanic workers still lag behind, Courtney said, attributing this to racism inside and outside the tech industry.

“White men have been the biggest founders of the largest tech companies represented in the state of Washington, and so I think that has led to a lack of consideration from the get-go for how you actually diversify your workforce,” he said.

At the same time, people of color have often been locked out of access to tech jobs because gaining entry requires at least a four-year bachelor’s degree in a computer science program.

“If you’re Black or Hispanic, you’re less likely to be able to obtain that than a white worker,” Courtney said, and that’s where he thinks white men and women have an advantage.

CompTIA’s report analyzes federal data, breaking down tech workforce trends, the number of available jobs in technology, and industry employment statistics by state and metro area and nationwide.