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Tech jobs are thriving nationwide -- up to 7.3M

Facebook employees relax with a game of ping-pong on campus.
Kim Kulish | Corbis | Getty Images
Facebook employees relax with a game of ping-pong on campus.

Memo to President Trump: The jobs market is alive and thriving in tech — so much so, there are 627,000 unfilled occupations.

The booming market grew 2% to about 7.3 million workers last year as the digital economy continued to flourish in jobs for software, cybersecurity and cloud computing, according to Cyberstates 2017, an annual analysis of the nation's tech industry by technology association CompTIA released Monday.

The vast majority — 6.9 million — were employed by tech companies. But many worked as technologists in other industries such as banking and healthcare, underlining the opportunity for workers with the right skills — especially outside hubs like Silicon Valley.

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And the profession pays: Tech workers, on average, earned $108,900 in 2016 — more than twice the national wage of $53,040, CompTIA says.

It all adds up to about 4% of the total U.S. workforce and a $1.3 trillion industry, about 8% of the national economy, says Tim Herbert, senior vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA.

The report found that as more companies, tech and non-tech, migrate to cloud computing and other software services, so have jobs nationwide. The number of tech jobs in 35 states and the District of Columbia, for example, grew in 2016 — with surges in employment in California (software, IT services), New York, North Carolina (cloud computing), Texas and Michigan (research and development, automotive).

Midwest residents like Mike Conley, vice president of digital for the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, have seen the resurgence up close. His career has paralleled growth in tech here.

Conley left Cleveland after web coding and designing the city's daily newspaper, the Plain Dealer, in the late 1990s for better tech-related opportunities in Texas, then California, for Fox Sports. He returned to his hometown four years ago amid an uptick in the use of technology for health care and business data analysis. Now, he says, the start-up scene is "bubbling up, percolating."

"For years, the jobs just weren't here," Conley, 39, says. "We were thought of as simply the Rust Belt, a manufacturing hub. But the way of life is changing here."

Jobs are aplenty for Hunter Guerin, 32, a product manager in software development who started at Xometry in Bethesda, Md., this year. He wasn't looking while working as a mechanical engineer for an aerospace and defense contractor in Alexandria, Va., when he learned of Xometry, a high-tech manufacturing start-up.

"There are a good amount of jobs for engineers," Guerin says. "No problem with that."

A separate study, released last week, affirms the growth of tech-related jobs in the Midwest and South. Emerging tech hubs in Nashville, Detroit and Cincinnati, among others, illustrate potential growth in fields such as health care, connected cars and e-commerce, says Michael Mandel of Progressive Policy Institute, who conducted the study for TechNet, a bipartisan network of tech executives.

The number and attractiveness of these jobs — and the industry's poor track record recruiting and promoting women and under-represented minorities — has led organizations like Black Girls Code and the Kapor Center for Social Impact to push for more training and access.

Tech companies employed more whites and Asian-Americans than other industries on average and lag hiring African Americans, Hispanics and women, according to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission based on 2014 data.

For the industry in general, there's a sizable skills gap exists between what college graduates know and what many employers are seeking, according to yet another report. Only 11% of employers believe higher education is "very effective" in readying graduates to meet skills needed in their organizations, according to a survey of 501 U.S. hiring managers, human resource specialists and executives in January by the Career Advisory Board.

Jobs experts warn the gap could deepen as the need for software engineers accelerates with the continued growth of artificial intelligence, robots and other fledgling industries

"If anything, we should expect even more demand for tech jobs," says Dennis Yang, CEO of Udemy, an online learning platform. "If you retrain and re-skill millions of folks already in the field with tech skills that is as important as high school and college graduates."