Seattle tops major cities for share of workers in tech

Gene Balk, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Has the tech industry, and the preponderance of tech workers, had a positive or negative impact on Seattle?

There's a wide range of feelings among city residents, but overall, it seems most folks think it's been positive. A Seattle Times/Suffolk University poll this year found 67% of Seattleites think the tech industry has generally improved life in the city.

That's probably just as well, because census data released this month shows tech workers have never had a more outsize presence in Seattle than they did in 2022.

According to the data, which is part of the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, the number of employed people living in Seattle was effectively unchanged between 2019 and 2022 — a total of around 467,500 city residents who worked a full-time or part-time job. But in the same period, the estimated number of Seattle residents employed in a computer or mathematical occupation increased by around 10,000, hitting a record 68,700.

That represents about 15% of all Seattle residents who are employed, or around one in seven. No major city comes close to Seattle for the share of residents working in tech jobs.

It should be noted that the "computer or mathematical occupations" category does include some non-tech jobs, notably actuaries. But it's overwhelmingly made up of people working in tech fields.

In 2019, about 12% of Seattle workers were in computer or mathematical occupations, which was already very high. But now Seattle really is in a geeky league of its own.

The cities that come closest, you may have already guessed, are the two Bay Area tech hubs. San Francisco and San Jose ranked second and third behind Seattle, in that order, but weren't even that close to Seattle. In both, tech workers made up nearly 11% of the total number of employed residents. San Jose had an estimated 56,000 tech workers, and San Francisco had around 51,000.

Austin had the fourth highest percentage among the 50 largest cities at 9%, followed by Atlanta at 8%.


Tech jobs often pay well, of course, and the cities with a high share of tech workers tend to be among the most affluent. In Seattle, the median earnings for a person employed full-time in a computer or mathematical occupation was $154,700 in 2022, census data shows.

Conversely, big cities with the lowest share of tech workers tend to be less affluent places. Fresno, Miami, Memphis and Detroit ranked at the bottom for the share of tech workers, each at less than 2%.

If you look at the raw number of tech workers instead of the percentage, there is still only one city among the nation's 50 largest that beats out Seattle: New York, with around 164,000 city residents employed in computer or mathematical occupations. While that's more than double Seattle's 68,700, keep in mind there are also more than 4 million employed people living in New York — that's nearly nine times greater than the number in Seattle. Tech workers only make up around 4% of New York's employed population.

During the pandemic, Amazon went on a hiring spree, which surely helped boost the number of tech workers in Seattle, and may also partly explain the big increase seen in the 2022 census data. More recently, though, the pace of tech hiring has slowed, and there have been layoffs at Amazon and Microsoft. It's certainly possible the total number of tech workers living in Seattle might be a little lower in 2023 than it was last year.

While the number of Seattle residents employed in tech jobs increased by 10,000 from 2019 to 2022, some other occupations declined.

The census data shows the number of Seattle residents working in office and administrative support positions dropped by around 9,600, the biggest decrease of any job category. It's also not too surprising when you consider how the rise in remote work during the pandemic left many offices empty.

There was another job category with a significant drop in this period: food preparation and serving-related occupations, which fell by about 7,000.

While Seattle stands out among major cities, some smaller cities had an even more dominant tech-worker presence. Among all U.S. cities with at least 65,000 residents, Redmond, Washington, ranked No. 1 — in 2022, 35% of employed residents worked in a computer or mathematical occupation in Microsoft's hometown.

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