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Help Wanted: Applications Software Developers, Anywhere, USA

Over the past ten years, aside from registered nurses, employment gains for applications software developers have outperformed those for all other highly skilled occupations, adding more than 150,000 workers in the nation over the ten years ending with the third quarter of 2016. More than 775,000 workers were classified as applications software developers in the third quarter of 2016.

There are now more software developers employed in the United States than lawyers (747,559), bartenders (618,136), or bank tellers (520,398); and industry demand for more seems insatiable. Over the next ten years, average annual employment growth for software developers is forecast to advance at a pace more than 2.7 times the rate of growth for all occupations (1.9% per year versus 0.7% per year, respectively).[1]

Odds are, many of us live in a region where it is difficult to find qualified developers.

With a median annual salary of $98,300 in the United States, applications software developers can be an attractive career choice for those with the right mix of skills. Based on current demand, an influx of developers would be a welcome addition to most regions.

While these workers are predominantly employed by computer systems design firms, and to a lesser extent, software publishers, their distribution across industries is increasingly widespread as their skills and expertise become more valuable to a broader range of businesses.

Most people would probably guess that the majority of developers work in some of our nation’s established technology hubs and/or largest metropolitan areas, such as Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Chicago, or Atlanta. And, as shown in the table below, each of these metropolitan areas appears in the top ten list for employment of developers. 

Largest areas of employment

Are the metropolitan areas with the largest number of software developers the same places with the largest net increase forecast for software developers? Or the most rapid pace of growth over the past few years? Is it more difficult to fill developer vacancies in the largest metro areas compared to others? What cities do the most developers choose to live in?

Using our JobsEQ® technology platform alongside our newly unveiled Real Time Intelligence (RTI) tool, Chmura set out to answer these basic questions and others, and made some surprising discoveries in the process. Several “top ten lists” follow as they pertain to application software developers in regional labor markets across the United States.

For starters, what U.S. cities do the most developers choose to live in?

Where developers live

Seven of the top ten cities also happen to be at the heart of many of the nation’s largest metropolitan statistical areas. And making six-digit salaries in these places means many developers can probably choose to live in the inner city to be close to where they work. The cities where most developers reside that are not among the top 10 employers of developers includes Houston, Austin, and sunny San Diego.

It’s also useful to consider how concentrated software developers are in a region relative to the national average. This indicator, known as a location quotient, measures the percent of people in the region employed as applications software developers relative to the percentage in the nation. A value of 1.0 indicates that a region’s concentration is equal to the national average; a value greater than 1.0 indicates a higher than average concentration.

So, what areas have the highest concentrations of these prized workers?

Highest concentration of developers

Boulder, with its scenic mountains, is not too surprising since many developers can choose to work wherever they want. And the wealth of intellectual capital in the Madison and Raleigh areas makes their appearances understandable. But while Provo and Huntsville have no shortage of positive attributes relative to quality of life or regional brainpower, some might be surprised to see them make the list.

How about historical trends—what areas have been adding software developers over the past year at the fastest rate?

Historical growth, one year

Hammond, Louisiana2 has outperformed the rest of the nation by far! And Florida seems to have figured something out with four metro areas in the top ten. In fact, the southeast is well represented.

One year may not reflect a trend, so the next table identifies the metro areas where growth was sustained over the past ten years.

Historical growth, ten years

Much of Florida dropped off our map but the southeast remains well represented; Utah bolstered its presence with two regions in the top ten, and both Hammond and St. George have also had robust growth over the past ten years. And finally, a place we might have guessed would appear: the San Francisco metro area.

Some readers might be thinking that many of these places started with a relatively small number of employed software developers, and as such, these rates of growth do not represent many jobs. For this reason, we adjusted our analysis to evaluate only those MSAs that employed 3003 or more software developers.

Here’s an adjusted list for historical growth over the past year:

Historical growth, one year (Employment > 300)

Again the southeast is prominent. And there’s Madison again, along with another region in Utah and two metro areas in the Pacific Northwest not called Seattle or Portland.

And over the past ten years:

Historical growth, ten years (Employment > 300)

The top metro areas continue to shift as we vary the measures. In this list, there is more regional parity on either side of the Mississippi River (6 to 4, favoring the west) and we’re beginning to see more overlap between our unadjusted and adjusted lists (e.g. Charleston, Madison, San Luis Obispo, Provo, and San Francisco).

Looking ahead, what metro areas are forecast to experience the most rapid growth over the next ten years? This list is unadjusted for size of employment:

Growth forecast, ten years

And adjusted:

Growth forecast, ten years (Employment > 300)

The outlier between these lists is The Villages, Florida, also known as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown” and, coincidentally, ranked #21 by Forbes as one of the nation’s “Best Small Places for Business and Careers.” And there’s Provo, again! By now, many readers may be curious about what’s driving growth in Utah, aside from its state motto literally being “Industry,” which they apparently take very seriously. For a nice piece on how the Industry state resembles Silicon Valley, click here.

The final parts of our armchair analysis consider current demand based on active job postings. Using our Real-Time Intelligence (RTI) tool, it was no surprise to learn that the Seattle area had the most active postings over the past thirty days (6,653), with Amazon accounting for more than half of all postings. Based on the Seattle region’s current employment of software developers (27,580), our Hiring Expansion Indicator tells us that for every 100 developers currently employed, there is additional demand for 24 more!

What about the rest of the nation? Are posting-to-employment ratios for developers tighter than in the Seattle area?

Hiring expansion difficulty

As it turns out, it is! Particularly for one company, General Electric, who is (nearly) singlehandedly driving demand in Monroe4. As of January 18, 2017 when we downloaded these numbers, for every 100 developers currently employed, there is an additional demand for 59 more, more than twice the ratio in the Seattle area. By contrast, no single employer in the Elmira area is responsible for more than a sixteen percent share of all active postings.

So, to restate my earlier thought: it’s just plain difficult to hire a qualified developer, anywhere.

[1] Source: All data in this blog was gathered using JobsEQ, unless otherwise noted.

[2] Yes, we did verify that this was not an error. Employment of applications software developers increased from 81 in the 3rd quarter of 2015 to 123 in the 3rd quarter of 2016.

[3] The median value for current employment in the third quarter of 2016, across 382 metropolitan statistical areas, was 297. We rounded up to 300.

[4] GE currently has 47 unique postings out of 54 total postings in the Monroe, Michigan MSA.


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