Tech jobs hold steady in Seattle and other big tech hubs, but there’s another disturbing trend line

A closed retail shop near Zillow’s downtown Seattle headquarters in summer of 2020. While tech jobs are holding steady in many tech hubs, retail jobs are sinking. (GeekWire photo)

The great migration of tech talent out of large tech hubs like Seattle, San Francisco and Boston may be overblown. At least that’s one of the findings of a new report by Indeed, which compared job postings in 8 large tech hubs to other major metropolitan areas.

“Even as remote work increases, tech jobs remain as concentrated in the big tech hubs as before the pandemic,” the report concluded. According to the findings, tech job postings fell less in the 8 major tech hubs than other metro areas, which meant “the tech geography pattern changed little during the pandemic.”

But here’s the rub. Overall, job postings across a variety of sectors — particularly in retail, childcare and food preparation— declined precipitously in the 8 major tech hubs surveyed when compared to other metro areas. The 8 major tech hubs studied included Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore, Boston, Austin, Washington, D.C., San Jose and Raleigh.

What’s going on here?

“With high shares of people working from home, local businesses like shops and restaurants have been getting less traffic. As a result, job postings and employment have suffered,” the report noted.

The story is evident for those who’ve wandered downtown Seattle, where small retail shops and restaurants once bustling with workers grabbing a lunchtime sandwich or after work cocktail remain closed or occupied by a small fraction of patrons. GeekWire explored the impacts of this trend last summer, speaking with small businesses near Zillow Group’s downtown headquarters.

As community leaders discuss how urban centers like Seattle rebound from the pandemic, the data from Indeed paints a troubling picture. Booming tech companies — hiring remote and non-remote workers — stand in contrast to the decimated industries that have historically served those industries in downtown districts. That could be bad news for downtowns.

Jed Kolko, who produced the report for Indeed, told Axios that it’s too early to tell whether the retail and food service work declines are permanent. But he also speculated that remote workers could shift the economic balance from downtown environments to outlying residential areas.

Could that mean a boom for Burien and Ballard?

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