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Tech migration report: Pittsburgh is among the top US markets for pandemic growth

Over the past year, the city has seen a growth rate of 7.5% in tech workers, with PNC Bank as the industry's top local employer.

Downtown Pittsburgh.

(Photo by Flickr user Paul McCarthy, used via a Creative Commons license)

The rise of remote work is still changing tech migration patterns.

Pittsburgh’s tech workforce got significantly bigger over the past year, even as some employers looked to start returning to in-person or hybrid office operations. The data comes from the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), which released a new report this week entitled “Tech Workforce Trends: The Migration of Tech Jobs Since the Pandemic,” covering remote work trends for the tech industry from January 2020 to April 2022.

The biggest national takeaway was an astounding 421% increase in the share of monthly posting volume for remote tech jobs, compared to pre-pandemic baselines at the start of 2020. And though some employers are asking their workers to come back to the office, those same companies might not always do so for jobs that were initially posted as fully remote ones, especially if the employees they hired for those positions don’t live near one of the company’s physical locations.

“Tech workers have moved around the country during the pandemic and even prior. Many have speculated about where all the tech workers have gone, but to date, there has not been a collective data set showcasing the full scope of tech migration — until now,” TECNA CEO Jennifer Grundy Young said in a statement. “Through this report, we aim to provide local, state, and federal government policymakers with the key insights needed to inform decisions that will positively impact their local communities and grow the technology economy and workforce across North America.”

Previously, Young worked as the senior director of policy and public affairs or Life Sciences Pennsylvania, and also served as the senior director of industry networks for the Pittsburgh Technology Council for 11 years. Brian Kennedy, who is now the SVP of operations and government affairs for the local council, has been a board member for TECNA since July 2018.

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While local leaders have long pointed to remote work trends in tech as being a good motivator for people to move to more “livable” cities like Pittsburgh, this report puts a number on just how much of that opinion is true compared to traditional tech markets like New York, Silicon Valley and Boston.

Over the past year — May 2021 to April 2022 — Pittsburgh’s tech workforce increased by 7.5%, putting it at pace with its fellow Pennsylvania market, Philadelphia, per the report. That percentage is behind markets like Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Atlanta, but ahead of others like DC, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.

Pennsylvania’s overall growth rate in tech talent was 7.6%, slightly higher than those listed for both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, suggesting there’s some portion of tech workers settling outside of those metro hubs in the state. While Pennsylvania beat out states like Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts, it fell behind Maryland, New York, Texas, Florida and others, pointing to a trend that some tech workers who used to work in major tech hubs’ city limits — like those of DC, New York City, Austin and Miami — have simply moved to more suburban areas near their initial work markets.

The report also listed top employers for each state and metro it studied. For Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, the top tech employer was Comcast, while in Pittsburgh the top tech employer was PNC Bank. Across the country, the top five tech cluster employers are, in order: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Amazon Web Services.

There weren’t any statistics provided in the report on who else ranks as top employers for the regions, but PNC’s status as number one underscores what autonomous vehicle executives recently said at a panel on the robotics and autonomous systems industry: Pittsburgh very much remains in a startup stage for robotics and AI despite its notoriety and expertise in that field.

It’s also a sign that life sciences still has a ways to go in leading Pittsburgh, despite the heavyweight corporations here like UPMC and Highmark, and the talent coming out of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. However, the report defined tech workers according to codes established by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, including ones ascribed to software developers, network and computer systems administrators, information security analysts and more, so it’s unclear if jobs in those realms that overlap more with the life sciences industry would be included in the findings.

Still, the news is heartening for Pittsburghers who have long worked to make the city a mid-size tech hub on the same level of recognition as more traditional ones. It adds to a growing list of reports, most notably the 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Report from Startup Genome, that suggest Pittsburgh’s decades of hard work in building a tech ecosystem are finally starting to pay off.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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