18 States Falling Behind in the Tech Job Market

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In the aftermath of major tech layoffs, doubts cloud the industry on job security and growth, but rest assured — tech jobs thrive with growing demands in AI, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. Yet, growth varies depending on the area. Some U.S. states are thriving as tech hubs and attracting companies, talent, and investment, while others lag behind, struggling to retain workers.

According to the 2022 Milken Institute's State Technology and Science Index (STSI), the following states are at the bottom of the list when it comes to tech industry growth.

Mississippi

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While states like California and Washington race ahead in tech glory, Mississippi is playing catch-up. This southern state is dead last in the 2022 Milken Institute's STSI. Students are less likely to participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, and even those who do may not have the resources or guidance to excel fully.

With limited research funding and venture capital, Mississippi can't lure tech giants. Perhaps a little push in STEM education, infrastructure improvement, and investment attraction could turn the tide for Mississippi.

Louisiana

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Louisiana's dismal 49th rank in the Milken Institute's STSI isn't just a statistic; it's a flashing red sign pointing to a missed opportunity. Inadequate K -12 education in computer science hampers early tech skill development. Even worse, the state lacks essential high-speed internet and digital infrastructure, making it less appealing to major tech firms. The hard truth is that many local skilled tech graduates leave Louisiana for superior job prospects and higher pay in more lucrative states.

Arkansas

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Arkansas is a state brimming with tech promise, yet it sits 48th in the nation. The state falls below the national research and development spending average, both publicly and privately. Lacking a significant tech hub, it struggles to draw and keep businesses and talent compared to thriving states. However, here's the good news: the state is listening to tech companies and adjusting to create a more welcoming environment.

West Virginia

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West Virginia grapples with a substantial brain drain, losing educated youth to better opportunities, especially in the tech sector. Below-average IT salaries deter skilled professionals, while the absence of high-speed internet in many areas repels tech companies. However, the state is responding with initiatives like the “WV Forward” program and university-led efforts to enhance STEM education and entrepreneurship.

Oklahoma

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Oklahoma faces the impact of The Great Resignation, with STEM graduates often departing for superior opportunities, leaving a shortage of skilled tech workers. The state also struggles to attract venture capital, limiting startup growth and tech jobs.

Ranking 46th in broadband access impedes remote work and digital innovation. Initiatives such as i2E, an organization that helps innovators build and grow their businesses, are actively working to address these challenges, promoting entrepreneurship in the state.

Kentucky

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Kentucky is ranked 45th in the nation for bachelor's degree attainment, with traditional sectors like agriculture and manufacturing hindering a robust tech culture. Unfavorable tax structures and regulations pose challenges for tech companies compared to other states. Despite this, pockets of success emerge, with Lexington and Louisville drawing in modest amounts of tech companies and talent.

Maine

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Maine's economy focuses on tourism and agriculture, leaving less room for tech growth. Limited tech industries make it less attractive for companies and investors. The state's distance from major tech hubs may also create challenges in accessing resources and networking opportunities.

With a smaller population, Maine has a smaller talent pool for tech companies. Nevertheless, efforts like the ConnectMaine Authority aim to improve the tech scene by expanding broadband access across the state.

South Carolina

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South Carolina lands at 43rd in the 2022 Milken Institute's STSI. Unlike tech hubs like California and Texas, its tech job growth is less rapid. Although there's tech job creation, the percentage increase may trail other regions. South Carolina produces fewer STEM graduates, limiting the pool of qualified tech workers and challenging talent retention for companies.

North Dakota

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Despite North Dakota's solid computer science programs, the overall number of tech graduates falls below national averages. Attracting and retaining tech talent is challenging due to the state's smaller population and lower salary expectations than states with more lucrative economies. Understandably, some tech job seekers may prefer the vibrant atmospheres and amenities found in larger cities with established tech cultures.

South Dakota

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South Dakota faces challenges with a below-average high school graduation rate and a smaller percentage of adults with STEM bachelor's degrees than national averages. Even if there are tech-savvy graduates, they often relocate to states with more vibrant tech industries, further restricting the local talent pool. The absence of reliable and fast internet access, especially in rural areas, poses a hurdle for tech businesses and remote work.

Tennessee

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Tennessee's math and science proficiency lags, affecting future tech workers. While venture capital grows, it's behind in technology, limiting innovation and talent attraction. High personal and corporate taxes may deter tech companies and workers. Despite the low numbers, Tennessee's tech sector is rising, with big names like Oracle and Amazon and initiatives like “TN Achieves” boosting education and workforce development.

Nevada

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Nevada's economy leans heavily on tourism and gaming, leaving little focus on building a diverse and innovative tech sector. In addition, the state's smaller and less active venture capital scene limits funding for startups, hindering their growth and job creation. Yet, there's hope with initiatives like the Governor's Innovation NV program and technology districts aiming to cultivate a more vibrant tech ecosystem.

Florida

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Florida's tech scene is booming, with giants like Amazon and Microsoft making a mark, but hurdles slow its stride compared to top hubs. The state's public universities lack the depth of computer science programs in California or Massachusetts.

Rising housing costs, especially in tech hubs like Miami and Tampa, pose talent attraction and retention challenges. Some argue that Florida's regulatory environment, particularly around data privacy, may be less favorable to tech companies than other states.

Hawaii

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Compared to mainland hubs, Hawaii lacks established tech companies and venture capital, affecting talent retention. High living costs make it tough for tech firms to compete with mainland salaries. Plus, slower and pricier internet in Hawaii affects tech businesses' bottom line. Despite obstacles, local initiatives and trends like remote work offer hope for the islands' tech scene to flourish.

Alaska

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Alaska's resource-driven economy, centered on oil and gas, may not appeal to tech professionals seeking dynamic environments. The state's remoteness and distance from tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Seattle can limit collaboration and networking opportunities. Unsurprisingly, skilled tech professionals might prefer states with larger, more established markets and higher salaries.

Missouri

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Missouri ranks below the national average in K–12 STEM education, which impacts students' tech career preparation. In addition, ongoing funding challenges for public universities in Missouri hinder investment in technology. However, the state is boosting its tech competitiveness through initiatives like tax breaks for tech firms and increased investments in STEM education.

Nebraska

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Nebraska's 34th ranking in the 2022 Milken Institute's STSI highlights its tech sector's relative underperformance compared to other states. With fewer major tech companies and limited access to venture capital, the state faces challenges in scaling tech startups and career opportunities. Some argue that less favorable state policies or regulations may deter tech businesses from locating or expanding in Nebraska.

Iowa

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Iowa shows promise with emerging tech hubs in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, but its entrepreneurial culture might not match that of leading states. Ranking 33rd in the 2022 Milken Institute's STSI, Iowa faces limitations, including a lack of robust angel investor networks, hindering early-stage funding for promising tech ventures. Consequently, many tech-savvy graduates flee Iowa for better opportunities and higher salaries in other states.

Author: Hannah Healy

Title: Writer

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Hannah is the published author of The Ultimate Paleo Cookbook and an avid writer in the health, entertainment, travel, and personal finance spheres. She is also the owner and founder of Healy Eats Real, a health and wellness website providing recipes and wellness information for over ten years. Hannah is the published author of The Ultimate Paleo Cookbook and an avid writer in the health, entertainment, travel, and personal finance spheres. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Redbook, Fitness, and MSN.