Could Blue States Lose Their Lead in Tech Jobs?

As the tech industry grows beyond Silicon Valley and tech companies open offices in emerging tech hubs around the country, tech employment is picking up in red states (those won by President Trump in 2016). 

That is in spite of the fact that tech companies tend to be filled with workers who are younger and more highly educated—demographic groups that tend to have liberal beliefs and opinions, and to support Democrats with their votes and campaign contributions.

Since 2016, the tech share of job postings in the ZipRecruiter marketplace has risen 93% in red states compared with 23% in blue states (those won by Hillary Clinton in 2016). Even though blue states still hold a commanding lead, they actually saw the tech share of job postings on ZipRecruiter fall last year. 

That is because tech companies are expanding more rapidly in places where the cost of living and the cost of doing business are relatively low—even if those places happen to be in red states. In other words, tech job growth is largely associated with the general business climate within a state. 

By several measures, red states have experienced better labor market outcomes than blue states in recent years.  

  • Job growth. Employment has grown 4.25% in blue states between December 2016 and December 2019, compared with 4.48% in red states over the same period, based on estimates of state nonfarm payroll employment from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Layoff rates. We tallied the number of workers affected by mass layoffs (based on data from state archives of WARN notices) as a share of total employment (as estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 18 in 10,000 workers in red states were affected by WARN layoffs in 2019, compared with 28 in 10,000 workers in blue states, on average. The data are available here
  • State-to-state migration. 1.48 million Americans migrated from red states to blue states between 2017 and 2018, compared with 1.95 million who migrated from blue states to red states. That is according to our calculations using data from the U.S. Census Bureau on state-to-state migration. 

Generally, when tech job seekers consider jobs in other states, they tend to look to nearby states first, according to ZipRecruiter data. For example, Illinois-based tech job candidates seeking to move out of state are most likely to apply to jobs in Indiana (23%) followed by Wisconsin (13%), while New York-based job candidates seeking jobs out of state are most likely to apply to jobs in New Jersey (38%) followed by Massachusetts (6%). 

Texas, Florida, and Arizona are punching far above their weight, however, attracting a larger share of tech job seekers from other states than their geographic proximity would predict. The movement of young tech industry workers into these states is already creating blue pockets, like Austin, Texas, and could have further political implications down the road. 

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Julia Pollak

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Julia Pollak is a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. She provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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