The state of the industry: the biggest regional tech trends of 2016

As the tech sector continues to mature, regional differences have become more pronounced, but some industry trends ignore geographic boundaries.

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It’s become a cliché, but still rings true: 2016 was yet another milestone year for the U.S. tech industry. Employment rose nearly 3 percent, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2017 report, our annual comprehensive analysis of the nation’s tech industry. IT sector hiring accounted for approximately 10 percent of all jobs added to the U.S. economy last year.

Even with a net gain of 182,000-plus jobs, U.S. employers posted job openings for more than 626,000 core technology positions during the fourth quarter of 2016.

As the tech sector continues to mature, regional differences have become more pronounced, but some industry trends ignore geographic boundaries. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the report:

  • California continues to lead: With a population 46 percent larger than Texas and a GDP equivalent to the 25 smallest state economies combined, it’s no surprise California remains at the head of the pack. The Golden State is home to the largest tech sector in the country, employing nearly 1.2 million professionals. The IT industry’s West Coast love affair shows no signs of waning. With more than 51,100 and an average annual wage of $154,000 for a tech industry workers, California outranks every other state in both categories. In 2016, California added almost 48,600 tech sector jobs, more than runner-ups New York, North Carolina, Texas and Michigan combined.
  • Patent slowdown: The patent squabbles that dominated the last few years are no more, perhaps driven by the rise of patent-sharing agreements and greater cooperation, as seen in PAX and the LOT Network. At the same time, the number of computing tech patents granted fell slightly from their peak in 2014, declining 13.2 percent to 52,000. This isn’t to say tech sector innovation is cooling off, though, as the number of tech startups grew by 4,018 and more than 142,000 new tech occupations were filled between 2015 and 2016. Most businesses have decided to spend less time litigating and more time creating, providing a wealth of opportunities for IT professionals.
  • Up-and-coming tech markets beyond Silicon Valley: California and Texas are well known for their robust IT communities, but these aren’t the only states experiencing a tech sector boom. New York, North Carolina and Michigan number among the fastest growing states for IT professionals, each adding more than 10,000 tech sector positions in the past year. Florida, Colorado and Massachusetts also experienced strong growth, highlighting the transition away from a California monopoly on talent toward a diversified mix of established tech corridors.
  • Gender parity a work in progress: The tech sector has struggled to recruit and retain women, with female IT professionals representing only a third of the industry nationally, unchanged from 2015. But a closer look reveals some states enjoy more equal representation than others: the District of Columbia is well above the national average, with a 39.1 percent female tech workforce. South Dakota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Wisconsin are also home to a greater number of women in tech, each at least two percent above the national average.
  • Economic impact by state: The IT industry contributed an estimated 9 percent to the U.S. economy. Unsurprisingly, the tech industry carries extra weight in California, where it accounts for 15.4 percent of the state’s economy. IT has the most widespread impact in Oregon, where it single-handedly contributes 19.3 percent of the local economy. Washington, Massachusetts and Colorado’s economies are also heavily influenced by the IT industry, reflecting the presence of maturing tech hubs and in some cases a narrowly diversified business environment.

No one can claim to know the future of the tech sector, but it’s clear that many of 2016’s most significant trends will shape the industry over the next year. While the West Coast and major metro areas continue to attract the lion’s share of new IT professionals, thriving tech pockets are quickly flourishing throughout the nation.

On both the national and regional stage, the tech industry plays a leading role. As the IT sector expands, it offers new opportunities to job seekers, seasoned professionals and local economies alike.

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