Friday, May 11, 2018

New Utah IT Labor Study

Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

Our Workforce Research and Analysis Division recently released a study looking at the labor structure of the Utah information technology (IT) industry. At the core of any IT industry are the coding workers — those who design and build a company’s product. We identified industries that can be labeled as Utah’s IT nucleus, and then focused upon that industry’s occupational core — its coding workers.

Utah’s IT industry is dynamic and fast-growing. Industry leaders regularly speak of the industry’s need for additional workers — on top of Utah’s strong and consistent IT industry growth. The call for supplying labor to this key Utah industry can, at times, bring pressure upon Utah’s education system. But, what about in-migration as a labor source? It was to gauge labor in-migration that our study took root. But as economic studies often do, it grew into something bigger.

In discovery, in-migration is not a defining labor source for the Utah IT industry. Yes, labor does migrate in; but, each year a roughly equal number migrates out. What migration does do is produce a bit of an education exchange. In general, about half of the Utah IT labor in-migration comes with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Conversely, nearly three-quarters of those who migrate out have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

On a consistent basis though, the majority (more than 90 percent) of Utah core IT new hires come from workers already employed within Utah. Utah workers migrate from other industries to enter the core IT industry. This implies that the vast majority of the education behind these workers is obtained within Utah.

The Utah IT market employs coders with a bachelor’s degree or higher. But it does not do it as extensively as seen in other national IT markets. Nationally, about 68 percent of IT labor has a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Utah, that percentage is 52 percent. This reality places a greater appreciation of the role and support the technical and vocational training pathways provide in sustaining Utah’s IT industry growth.

The Utah IT market is rapidly growing and successful with its near-balanced mix of higher and lesser education levels. This balance creates attractive work and income opportunities for those who have not attained an advanced degree, or whose innate interest or capacity may not align with an advanced degree. The median earnings of these IT occupations can reach upwards $85,000 or more — even for workers without a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is an integral industry in Utah that provides high, middle-income earnings for workers with less than an advanced college degree.

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