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Philly slipped to #26 among tech talent hotspots. But it’s still showing promising growth

The slow-and-steady growth trajectory continues, with a 9.3% increase in local tech jobs since 2015. Plus: Hybrid work models reign.

The view of Center City from Drexel Park in Powelton Village. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
Correction: Philadelphia saw a 9.3% increase in local tech jobs since 2015, not since 2020, as previously reported. (7/16/21, 2:36 p.m.)

More than year after the pandemic changed how professionals worked, the City of Brotherly Love is showing new signs of life. At the same time, though Philadelphia has slipped in the year-over-year rankings of national real estate services firm CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent Report, steady growth is still happening in the market.

After being ranked #22 in last year’s CBRE report, Philly slipped four spots to #26 on the list of cities in the United States and Canada with the most tech talent growth for 2021 — but it’s still maintaining its slow-and-steady growth trajectory.

See the report

Some key takeaways from the report:

  • 4.2% or 112,740 of Philly’s jobs are in tech, a boost from last year’s 3.9%
  • The city has seen a 9.3% increase in local tech jobs since 2015
  • Philly saw a net loss of 19,333 tech graduates leaving after completing their studies
  • Software developers and programmers make up 33% of Philly’s tech talent

Because of mostly positive stats like these, CBRE First VP Rija Beares doesn’t think the rankings slip is cause for concern. She pointed to the high volume of venture capital and other funding entering Philly as a good sign of economic growth.

“If the funding comes in and we get growth, we’re operating and ready to grow,” she said.

Following a continuation of the national trend toward remote work, the Radnor-based Beares said companies with IRL-virtual hybrid models stand to have an advantage in attracting talent over companies that expect workers to come in to an office five days a week. Still, she believes that the professional newcomers of Gen Z need the in-person experience to understand how business works.

“We need synergies and to get Gen Z, the newest in the workforce, hearing how people can do business because you can’t learn that by yourself in your own home,” she said. “That intellectual property transfer needs to happen in real life.”

(Regarding those younger pros: Last year, Beares told us that brain drain, or the loss of skilled professionals, can actually be a good thing in terms of Philadelphia’s tech economy because it means the city has not maxed out its market for professionals in the field.)

Beares added that companies allowing their people to continue working remotely need to be aware of tax implications that come with hiring employees to work in one location who may then go work elsewhere in the country or world.

She remains optimistic that as the pandemic wanes, the local economy will grow. She believes tech will be a major part of that resurgence.

“Like the rest of the world, the pandemic caused this collective shock and cause so that everyone could take stock of what was going on,” she said. “Deals, projects and initiatives that went on hold got back on pace and started to materialize. It was a pause and big growth from there. The chaos and discord was a catalyst for more innovation, which is what Philly does best. I think that’s the sentiment. We’re ready and there’s going to be some creativity. We all have new ideas and tech is a great place to solve those challenges.”

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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