Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Software Publishing: Oregon Has an App for That

by Amy Vander Vliet, Regional Economist for Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties

The software publishing industry has been steadily carving out a niche in Oregon over the last few decades. Although the Bay Area and Seattle might garner more attention, Oregon companies have been innovating and adding jobs since the early 1990s. Currently, only three other states have a greater concentration of employment in this industry: Massachusetts, Utah, and Washington.

Firms in this sector design, develop, and publish software that address a variety of consumer needs including financial management, social networking, mobile services, business intelligence, Internet security, and open source development. 

Oregon software publishers work on a vast array of products. Symantec, initially known for Norton Antivirus, has become a leader in computer security software. In Portland, Janrain develops software that allows websites to accept logins from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A few blocks away, Tripwire's working on data security and Jive is creating social networking software for businesses. The list, over 600 strong, goes on.

Recession? What Recession?

Oregon's software publishing industry saw explosive growth in the 1990s as the Internet became a way of life. Employment rose from 1,600 jobs in 1990 – a year before the World Wide Web became publicly available – to 8,500 jobs by 2000; a rate of growth fifteen times faster than the overall economy.

Employment peaked in 2001, and then the dot-com bubble burst. Nationally, business spending on software came to a screeching halt after five years of annual gains averaging 20 percent. Oregon's software industry lost more than one-quarter of its job base over the next three years.  

Job growth resumed in 2004, and by 2008 employment reached record highs – just in time for the second recession of the decade. But while many industries in Oregon suffered steep jobs losses during the Great Recession, software publishers remained relatively unscathed. After just a year of mild losses, the industry held steady in 2010 and 2011 before growth resumed in 2012. 

High Earnings for Software Publishing Workers

The average wage for workers in the industry topped $98,000 in 2014. It's not just a handful of well-compensated CEOs bringing up the average- almost half of all workers earn $40 an hour or more, and nearly one-third earn $50 hourly. Overall, the median wage in software publishing is $38.59 per hour, more than double the median wage for all industries ($17.74).

More key points on software publishing in Oregon:
  • Oregon software publishing firms tend to be small. Three-quarters employ fewer than 10 workers, and the median firm size is two.
  • More than half of the nearly 100 occupations populating this industry require a bachelor's degree.
  • The vast majority of workers in software publishing are male; 70 percent compared with 50 percent across all industries. 
  • They are also young. Sixty percent of the workforce is under 45 years old; a greater concentration than the 55 percent across all industries.
  • Between 2012 and 2022, the Oregon Employment Department projects software publishers to grow by 27 percent, an increase of 2,500 jobs. (All jobs across OR are expected to grow 15%).
For a more detailed analysis on these key points, read Amy's full article: Software Publishing: Oregon Has an App for That

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