The U.S. Tech Talent Gulf Is Wide, But Signs Show Job Seekers Inching it Closer

The tech talent gulf remains wide in the U.S., with over 40 percent more employer need than job-seeker interest. This is a large and troubling gap. In our technology-driven economy, employers across all industries are in need of roles such as data scientists, software engineers, and software developers. When these roles aren’t filled, or aren’t filled with the right people, that can have a negative impact on businesses and the economy.

It takes two to tango, of course, and addressing the tech gap is no different. First, employers need to find ways to find, keep, and develop the talent they need. Second, job seekers need to have access to the right training and education, as well as see a career in tech as being rewarding and sustainable.

In recent years, this has seemed like mission impossible, with the demand for tech talent far oustripping the supply, and school systems struggling to improve computer and math skills for the future labor force.

That’s the bad news.

However, here’s something you may not know: the tech gap is actually shrinking overall in the U.S. when we compare job seeker interest to the available job postings.

In a recent study I did as chief economist at Indeed, we found the gap has closed by about 10 percent since 2014. Because our employment data shows what people are aiming for — not yet what they have — we see this is a good predictor for the future.

This is heartening news, no doubt. But it’s perhaps more a sign of how efforts to close the technology talent gap are starting to bear fruit, and should continue to be be ramped up.

In previous research, we have found that most people in today’s labor market take regular looks at new job opportunities. Through their explorations they are beginning to see the potential in this field that often hires higher wages, more flexibility, and chances for growth. For employers in need of tech talent, as well as educators, this active desire for better, higher paying, and more flexible work should be fostered.

The tech gap exists in cities across the U.S. and around the world. In our research, however, we found that job seekers looking for tech jobs are focused on just four key U.S. hubs: San Jose, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle.

Nice places to live if you can. But New York, Boston, and Atlanta, are nice as well, and were among the top 10 U.S. cities most in need of tech talent.

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So part of the solution, according to our data, is alignment of job seekers and employers. One way to do that is for employers to consider offices in these key cities. For other employers, perhaps advertising positions in these cities where tech workers could work remotely may help fill positions  Overall it’s not just about physical location as flexible options for local workers as well as remote work open new possibilities. But flexibility alone will not be enough. We’re going to need more people interested in and trained for tech jobs.

Today, most software developers don’t even work for a software firm. A global survey from Stack Overflow shows that only 25 percent of developers work in the software industry, while the rest are spread across industries ranging from healthcare to banking.

Right now, job seekers seem willing to make the move toward tech jobs, but much needs to be done to ensure the trend continues.

 

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Tara Sinclair

Tara M. Sinclair is an associate professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University and chief economist at Indeed. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in macroeconomics and econometrics. Her research interests focus on modeling, explaining, and forecasting macroeconomic and particularly labor market fluctuations and trends for different countries. She is the co-director of the George Washington University Research Program on forecasting. As Indeed’s economist, she is developing original research using Indeed data on jobs and labor.