Seattle leads nation in ‘brain gain,’ adds tech jobs faster than any other big U.S. market over 5 years

A full moon rises over the Seattle skyline. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The Seattle region added more than 48,000 tech jobs from 2016 to 2020, an increase of more than 35% — growing at a faster rate than any other large U.S. tech market, according to a new analysis by the CBRE real estate firm.

The report confirms the meteoric growth of the region’s tech industry in the latter half of the past decade. The trend has been driven by the expansion of Silicon Valley engineering outposts in the Seattle area, the extraordinary growth of Amazon, the revival of Microsoft, and the emergence of heavily funded, homegrown startups, particularly in cloud computing and enterprise technology.

Only Toronto and Vancouver, B.C., grew at a faster rate, as the tech markets in Canadian cities benefitted from restrictive U.S. immigration policies.

Although the report refers to the market as Seattle, CBRE confirmed that the stats encompass the greater Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma metropolitan area.

Tech leaders and economic development officials across the continent are closely watching these trends as the industry and the world emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new era of remote and hybrid work allows some tech workers to live further from company offices.

Overall, Seattle moved past Washington, D.C., to claim the No. 2 spot behind the San Francisco Bay Area in CBRE’s overall scorecard assessing each region’s “depth, vitality and attractiveness to companies seeking tech talent and to tech workers seeking employment.”

The report also studied new tech-related college degrees in the context of overall tech jobs added in each region to determine whether a market was able to retain the talent produced by its universities. Seattle scored a high “brain gain” by this measure, second only to Toronto.

CBRE Graphic

Top tech talent isn’t cheap. The report puts Seattle second, behind the San Francisco Bay Area, in average wages; and third, behind the Bay Area and New York, in total cost of running a technology business.

CBRE Graphic. Click for larger image

The report also looked at the overall diversity of each tech market as part of its assessment. Seattle was in the middle of the pack, including among neither the most diverse nor the least diverse markets, as measured by employment of women and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the tech industry.

See the full CBRE scorecard for Seattle below, including the diversity statistics.

Here’s a larger PDF of the scorecard, and the full report.

CBRE Graphic. Click for larger PDF.

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