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Tech jobs in the 8 major big tech hubs showed resilience during the COVID-19 crisis

Despite the national decline and fewer posted remote positions, tech roles remained in demand in hubs such as San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Washington, D.C., according to a new report from Indeed.

Image: iStock/UlrichBeinert

Tech jobs, like tech workers themselves, are iconoclasts. A newly released study from Indeed showed that unlike industries with businesses that were forced to shutter and suffered job losses, the major tech hubs held onto technology roles throughout the pandemic. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, a majority of businesses quickly transitioned from on-premises to sending their employees to work from home, yet the tech job postings in the big tech hubs were actually less likely to mention remote work than tech job listings in areas other than those major tech hubs. 

For a year starting in March 2020, non-remote tech job postings became even more concentrated in big tech hubs than tech postings in general. Remote work benefited tech employers outside of the major tech hubs because, Indeed reported, there were fewer specialized tech workers in those local markets.

The eight major tech hubs–Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Raleigh, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C.–experienced lags in overall job postings, as did most U.S. cities, with plunges in March and April of 2020, and were challenged by slow recoveries. Indeed reported that on April 23, 2021, Indeed job postings in the big tech hubs were only 5% above pre-pandemic baselines, compared to 24% above baseline in other metropolitan areas.

The eight major tech hubs are metro areas with a population of at least 1 million that had the highest number of local job postings in software development in the year before the pandemic. There are also 24 metro areas considered the smaller tech centers. These have populations between 250,000 and 1 million, and have the most local job postings in software development during the same period, the year before the pandemic. 

SEE: 2021 IT budget research report: COVID-19’s impact on projects and priorities (TechRepublic Premium)

Actual tech jobs, in software development, information technology operations and information design held up better in the big eight tech hubs than elsewhere. 

For job postings that cited a location, the share of tech job posts nationally in the eight big tech hubs increased minimally, from 37.46% in the year prior to the pandemic to 37.53% in the first full year of the pandemic. In Indeed reports from 2017 and 2019, the eight big tech hubs maintained or increased shares of U.S. tech jobs.

Tech jobs in tech hubs were less likely to mention remote work than tech jobs elsewhere: “In the eight big tech hubs, 16% of tech jobs mentioned remote work versus 18% of tech jobs in the two dozen smaller tech centers across the country, 19% in other big metros, and 22% in other smaller metros,” the report found. This translates to non-remote tech job postings are now more concentrated in the eight big tech hubs than tech postings overall. And, the concentration of non-remote tech postings in those big hubs increased more during the pandemic than the concentration of tech postings overall did. 

Indeed cites as a key finding that “tech jobs are at least as concentrated in tech hubs as before the pandemic, and more so when looking only at jobs where location matters enough that the posting doesn’t mention remote work. The increase of remote work makes location less important for many tech jobs. But jobs for which location still matters are even more clustered in tech hubs.”

The patterns, Indeed noted, indicate that tech firms that are not in a big tech hub benefit more from remote work than the big hub tech companies, but Indeed also reminded that the big tech hubs have access to a concentration of tech workers. Employers in big tech hubs might find remote work gives employees more flexibility, and ultimately “dramatically expands the recruiting pool for tech employers not located in the big hubs.

Non-tech job postings within the tech hubs–primarily local service jobs–suffered big declines. Retail job posts were down 16% year-over-year in tech hubs, but flat outside tech hubs. Positions in childcare and food-prep declined more in the tech hubs than elsewhere. Indeed’s report noted: “These local service sectors got hit because tech hubs are full of people who can work remotely. Tech hubs have clusters of both tech jobs and related professional services jobs that can be done from home. With high shares of people working from home, local businesses like shops and restaurants have been getting less traffic. As a result, job postings and employment suffered.”

Clearly, remote jobs increased dramatically during the pandemic and Indeed job postings in nearly all sectors were more likely to mention remote work. Tech postings mentioned remote work more than postings in other industries.

Within the eight big tech hubs, tech job postings fell the least in Baltimore and Austin and the most in Raleigh and Boston. Meanwhile, Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco, which all have high concentrations of big tech firms and desirable tech positions, were in the middle. Seattle and San Jose, where the biggest tech companies are headquartered mentioned the least amount of remote jobs.

The result of these findings demonstrates that tech geography patterns were not much affected by the pandemic. Tech jobs fell less in areas with concentrations of tech roles, and Indeed’s data showed smaller declines in the eight major tech hubs than those outside of those cities. 

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