Workplace

Brookings report: San Francisco is still the center of the tech world

Zoom towns and the remote-work boom might be overstated.

San Francisco

Regional tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle and New York actually expanded their share of tech jobs during the pandemic.

Photo: Hardik Pandya/Unsplash

For all the hullabaloo that San Francisco is over — long live “Zoom towns” and the rise of remote work — the reality is much more mixed, according to a new report from Brookings Institution.

Brookings found that, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, regional tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle and New York actually expanded their share of tech jobs during the pandemic.

“Anybody who thinks that the big tech hubs are sad and closing down is wrong,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at Brookings Metro.

Muro ascribed the continued dominance of regional tech superpowers like the Bay Area to the fact that they’re still “crucial” to early-stage business development and R&D work for startups. These major cities are often where the corporate research labs and areas for collaboration are. As tech companies mature, that’s when they start to recruit elsewhere.

Graph: Brookings Institution

That doesn’t mean the rest of the U.S. missed out on the action. The report also found that employment growth increased in midsized and small cities, including Atlanta, St. Louis and Birmingham.

People are overemphasizing the remote-work boom, according to Muro. In his opinion, the shift to smaller cities in the South and Midwest is more likely driven by the industry’s desire to source more diverse talent. Some of the cities with the biggest rise in employment growth compared to pre-pandemic include Atlanta and Birmingham, both known for their technical talent and proximity to HBCUs and other respected public universities, as well as a high quality of life and decent weather.

“I think that’s really an attraction for a sector that is under pressure to show progress on diversity,” he said.

Major tech companies like Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft have recently opened offices in Atlanta, which in recent years has become a major magnet for tech companies looking to invest in Black talent.

Companies are “trying to have it both ways: maintaining core activities in the superstar hubs, but also trying to follow workers with remote work offerings or creating new offices in new places,” Muro said.

Despite rumors that cities like New York are in trouble in the wake of the remote-work boom, companies like Google are investing in expensive new real estate and calling their employees back to the office. Rents have soared back to pre-pandemic heights, and in some cases, surpassed their pre-pandemic levels.

Graph: Brookings Institution

Unlike most research on geographic shifts in employment trends, the report from Brookings did not rely on real estate or survey data. Instead, it analyzed The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages as well as job postings data.

Muro characterized the shift in tech employment trends as a “winner takes most” dynamic accompanied by a modest “rise of the rest” scenario.

Time will tell how things shake out. The industry is at a “juncture,” and it would take a couple of years to determine whether these shifts are a temporary disruption or an inflection point, according to Muro. That being said, he “would never bet against the big hubs.”

Fintech

Gensler: Bitcoin may be a commodity

The SEC has been vague about crypto. But Gensler said bitcoin is a commodity, “maybe.” It’s the clearest glimpse of his views on digital assets yet.

“Bitcoin — maybe that’s a commodity token. That has a big market value, but that goes over there,” Gensler said, referring to another regulator, the CFTC.

Photoillustration: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Protocol

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has long argued that many cryptocurrencies are subject to regulation as securities.

But he recently clarified that this view wouldn’t apply to the best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Workplace

What the economic downturn means for pay packages

The war for talent rages on, but dynamics are shifting back to the employers.

Compensation packages could start to look different as companies reshuffle the balance of cash and equity.

Illustration: Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

The market is turning. Tech stocks are slumping — which is bad news for employees — and even industry powerhouses are slowing hiring and laying people off. Tech talent is still in high demand, but compensation packages could start to look different as companies recruit.

“It’s a little bit like whiplash,” compensation consultant Ashish Raina said of the downturn. Raina, who mainly works with startups that have 200 to 800 employees, previously worked as the director of Talent at Index Ventures and head of Compensation and Talent Analytics at Box. “I do think there’s going to be an interesting reckoning in terms of pay increases going forward, how that pay is delivered.”

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Policy

How 'Zuck Bucks' saved the 2020 election — and fueled the Big Lie

The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $419 million donation became the 2020 election’s most enduring conspiracy theory.

Mark Zuckerberg is smack in the center of one of the 2020 election’s multitudinous conspiracies.

Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Getty Images

If Mark Zuckerberg could have imagined the worst possible outcome of his decision to insert himself into the 2020 election, it might have looked something like the scene that unfolded inside Mar-a-Lago on a steamy evening in early April.

There in a gilded ballroom-turned-theater, MAGA world icons including Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and former president Donald Trump himself were gathered for the premiere of “Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump.”

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Fintech

From frenzy to fear: Trading apps grapple with anxious investors

After riding the stock-trading wave last year, trading apps like Robinhood have disenchanted customers and jittery investors.

Retail stock trading is still an attractive business, as shown by the news that crypto exchange FTX is dipping its toes in the market by letting some U.S. customers trade stocks.

Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a brief moment, last year’s GameStop craze made buying and selling stocks cool, even exciting, for a new generation of young investors. Now, that frenzy has turned to fear.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev pointed to “a challenging macro environment” marked by rising prices and interest rates and a slumping market in a call with analysts explaining his company’s lackluster results. The downturn, he said, was something “most of our customers have never experienced in their lifetimes.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Latest Stories
Bulletins