Tech. Skills. Now. is a series of brief pieces by CBRE Labor Analytics meant to spark a conversation about hiring and location trends for today’s most sought after technology skills. In Volume 3 of the series we explore Artificial Intelligence.

As with all volumes of the Tech.Skills.Now series, this piece aims to communicate where to find employees with these highly sought-after skills while also highlighting locations in the United States where employers stand the best chance of gaining a competitive hiring advantage and establishing themselves as an “employer of choice”.


About Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an area of Computer Science, also sometimes called Machine Intelligence, that emphasizes the creation of computer systems that are able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. Some of the activities computers with AI are designed for include: speech recognition, visual perception, learning, planning, and problem solving.

Figure 1: National Indicators
Figure 1:  National Indicators

The intense demand for AI skills is evidenced by the 47% annual growth rate in professionals in the workforce possessing this skill set. To date, AI skills have been primarily demanded by the tech sector including such sub-areas as Information Technology & Services, Computer Software, and Internet. Financial Services is also another area of the economy where these skills are being increasingly implemented. The fastest annual growth rates for companies hiring AI talent suggests that these skills are becoming increasingly commonplace throughout many areas of the US economy. For example, some of the fastest growth in demand for AI skills over the past twelve months has occurred in industries as diverse as restaurants, environmental services, pharmaceuticals, and hospitality.

Which industries currently employ these skills?

Figure 2: Total Professionals with AI Skills by Industry
Figure 2: Total Professionals with AI Skills by Industry

Which industries have the fastest-growing demand?

Figure 3: Percent Change in Professionals with AI Skills, Top 100 Industries
Figure 3: Percent Change in Professionals with AI Skills, Top 100 Industries (2019)

What are the top talent markets today?

AI skills today typically tend to cluster in the larger and most established tech markets. In other words,these skills are highly clustered and not ubiquitous across geography. The SF Bay Area (including Silicon Valley) has the largest concentration of these skills in the US by a wide margin. The availability of AI talent diminishes rapidly outside of a small number of major markets – SF (#1 on the list) has a talent pool that is nearly 10x larger than Austin (#10 on the list) Evidence exists that these skills are beginning to become more widely dispersed across the US.

Figure 4: Top 10 Talent Markets
Figure 4: Top 10 Talent Markets

Where's the fastest growth?

Figure 5: Annual Change in Professionals with AI Skills, Top 100 Markets
Figure 5: Annual Change in Professionals with AI Skills, Top 100 Markets

Many of the fastest growing markets for AI skills in 2019 were emerging tech markets that have seen recent increases in tech hiring for a variety of skill sets and job functions. Markets such as Charlotte, NC; Columbus, OH; Phoenix, AZ; Kansas City, MO; and Nashville, TN are popular destinations for tech companies seeking lower cost high quality tech talent. Notably, none of the existing top 10 markets for AI skills are also on the top 10 growth list, suggesting that these skills are becoming dispersed across a greater number of geographies. In addition to the markets mentioned above, Buffalo and Milwaukee will be markets to watch for this skill. While they have not yet been frequent destinations for coastal tech companies, they possess specialized and growing talent clusters with limited hiring competition.

Where is the talent coming from?

Many of the top universities producing recent graduates with AI skills are among America’s top 50 universities. These schools are located in some of the largest existing AI skills clusters– SF, Boston, NY, LA, etc. Some markets are exporting graduates (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Diego, etc.) and there may be an opportunity to capture native talent being generated by schools in these markets.

Figure 6: Top 10 Schools by Total Recent Graduates (2016-19)
Figure 6: Top 10 Schools by Total Recent Graduates (2016-19)

Where is the talent going?

Net migration trends for professionals with AI skills suggest that some markets (e.g., Pittsburgh and Atlanta) have been better able to capture native talent coming out of their local universities. More mature markets with higher costs of living like SF and Seattle have seen a net out-migration of talent – perhaps a reaction to the growth of new job opportunities jobs in lower cost second tier markets.

Figure 7: Markets Gaining / Losing AI Talent
Figure 7: Markets Gaining / Losing AI Talent

Where are the strongest hiring opportunities?

Finally, CBRE Labor Analytics examined the ratio of existing professionals with AI skills in each US market compared to active job postings for positions requiring an expertise in this skill set. This comparison is one way to identify geographies with strong hiring potential. Markets with the highest ratios of qualified candidates to active job postings are likely to provide a lower risk hiring environment with limited competition and below average turnover rates.

Hiring opportunity shows that competition for this skill set remains intense across the country, but this analysis does reveal many potentially off-the-radar markets that have highly educated workforces with a robust pipeline of graduates from Tier 1 and Tier 2 universities. Of these, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Tampa, and Sacramento are also among the top 10 fastest growing markets for AI skills suggesting that the hiring opportunity may continue to grow in these markets.

Figure 8: Top 10 Markets Based on Qualified Candidates per Active Job Posting
Figure 8: Top 10 Markets Based on Qualified Candidates per Active Job Posting (2019)

Where is the greatest gender parity?

CBRE Labor Analytics also evaluates markets to understand the diversity of each area’s tech workforce and one way to do this is to understand gender representation by skill set. San Francisco has the greatest level of gender parity for AI skills of any major US market. Other markets with a relatively smaller gender gap tend to be university towns – perhaps suggesting a tendency for greater gender parity in academia over the private sector

Figure 9: Smallest and Largest Gender Gap for Professionals with AI Skills
Figure 9: Smallest and Largest Gender Gap for Professionals with AI Skills (2019)

Have an idea about what skills we should explore next? Let us know.