U.S. App Economy Jobs Update

By / 5.3.2017

In this paper PPI estimates that App Economy employment in the United States totaled 1.729 million as of December 2016.  Based on our previous work, the number of App Economy jobs in the United States has nearly quadrupled over the past five years, growing at a 30 percent annual rate. Looking at the top mobile operating systems, roughly 1.53 million jobs belong to the iOS ecosystem, while 1.35 million jobs belong to the Android ecosystem (many jobs belong to both ecosystems).  We also list the top 25 states by their App Economy employment.

This work is part of a larger PPI research project examining App Economy employment in different countries and regions, including  Europe, Latin America, and Asia. These are not numbers that can be found in government statistics, because the App Economy doesn’t fit neatly into the old economic paradigms. For example, statistical agencies that count exports have no category in trade statistics for the revenues generated by the export of domestically-created apps to other countries, even though these revenues may be very significant. Indeed, statisticians may not be counting these exports at all.

Moreover, the explosive growth of App Economy employment bears directly on the broad ongoing debate about the link between technological innovation and jobs.  There’s a pervasive worry that new technologies destroy jobs without creating very many new ones.

But our work has consistently demonstrated that innovation creates better and more jobs–not just on the coasts, but across the whole country.  In addition to the large number of App Economy jobs, our recent research shows rapid growth in ecommerce (“advanced distribution”)  jobs, which are better paid than retail jobs, and located in states such as Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. More broadly, we have shown that job growth in the digital sector of the economy has been faster than job growth in the physical sector, despite faster productivity growth in the digital industries.

Finally, we expect that the long-term growth prospects of the App Economy are still strong. Yes, the great surge of new game, media, and ecommerce apps is probably close to its peak. However, the rise of the Internet of Things means that more and more objects and physical processes will be connected to the Internet. Increasingly, individuals will be using mobile apps as their interface to their home, travel, entertainment, car, schools, health providers, and state and local governments. Employees in many enterprises are using mobile apps to monitor or control work processes. These apps will be highly functional and sophisticated, serving an essential role in interacting with our environment–and they will require ever more workers to build and maintain.


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