Seattle remains a top destination for tech and finance talent, registering positive net migration from both 2021-2022 and from 2022-2023. The rankings from CBRE’s “Scoring Tech Talent” report come despite a recent budget report from the city of Seattle warning of “stronger economic headwinds” compared to the rest of the country.
The analysis by CBRE Americas Consulting shows Seattle outperformed other metro areas in attracting young tech talent. For recent grads with up to three years of experience, Seattle had a 15.2% in-migration rate, far greater than second-place Austin with 9.7%. Other top metros for in-migration were San Francisco (9.1%), Indianapolis (4.6%) and Dallas-Fort Worth (4.1%).
Across all experience levels for the most recent year ending February 2023, Seattle was the second most favored destination at 11.5%. Austin had 15%.
In its talent migration report, CBRE stated “the conventional narrative that knowledge workers are abandoning high-cost major U.S. markets is not the complete story,” noting:
- High-cost major markets experienced an outflow of talent during the pandemic, but still have much larger talent pools than most Sun Belt cities.
- Out-migration from high-cost major markets during the pandemic was relatively minor and has been slowing, even reversing in metro New York.
- High-cost major markets are among the preferred destinations for young tech and finance talent.
As an example of the major markets’ “undeniable size advantage” over Sun Belt markets, the report compared San Francisco and Austin. Outflows as a percent of total workforce were modest in San Francisco (0.9%) while Austin led other metros in growth fueled by in-migration with a 4.1% increase in total talent. “At these rates, it would take over 80 years for Austin’s talent pool to reach the size of San Francisco’s,” the researchers observed.
A chart comparing cities’ net migration as a percent of total labor force for the period February 2020 to February 2023 pegged Seattle with a net change (consisting of talent gains and losses) of 1.1%. In addition to Austin, other areas with the largest gains were Tampa, Nashville, Charlotte and Denver.
Joining San Francisco with the largest outflow of tech workers during the same period were New York, Chicago, Virginia Beach-Norfolk and Pittsburgh.
CBRE said economic and lifestyle considerations largely drive talent migration patterns, with younger professionals tending to gravitate toward higher-cost major markets and fast-growing Sun Belt metros based on a combination of greater job prospects, networking opportunities and cultural experiences.
The Seattle area tech industry accounts for nearly 30% of the local economy in the metro area, according to a Seattle Times report.
Statewide, the economic impact of this sector is valued at more than $138 billion, accounting for an estimated 20% of the state economy. That is more than twice the national average of 8.8%. Of the state’s estimated 350,000 jobs in technology, around 80% were in the Seattle metro area.
The Evergreen State ranks first for job postings for emerging tech opportunities, including artificial intelligence and blockchain, according to The Times’ report. The newspaper also said despite slowing job growth, Washington is projected to add 13,500 more tech jobs this year.
A study from the Washington Technology Industry Association concluded the tech sector “remains a key driver of Washington’s economy.” The state’s information and communication technology sector added 89,000 jobs from 2019 and 2022, according to that report.
The CBRE analysis of finance talent found Charlotte experienced the highest rate of in-migration, at 13%, followed by Tampa, New York, Nashville and Chicago. New York was also among the top five markets for net-in migration of finance workers with 4-6 and 7-10 years of experience.
The CBRE research was based on an analysis of LinkedIn data. Researchers noted the trend of talent migration out of high-cost markets is slowing.
Chris Volney, managing director of client strategy with CBRE’s Labor Analytics said when developing a talent location strategy, a number of factors must be analyzed over a long period to gain a full understanding of a market’s talent capacity. The emerging talent pool of new local university graduates each year is often larger than the new pool relocating into a market, he noted, suggesting “companies should focus on the migration patterns of their desired skill sets and experience levels, rather than just the aggregate population of total workforce.”