U.S. App Economy Update August 2020

As of August 2020,  we estimate that the United States has 2.52 million App Economy jobs, up 12% from our latest April 2019 estimate (released September 2019). This estimate includes a conservative estimate of spillover jobs (for a definition of an App Economy job and an explanation of our methodology, please see the appendix of our 2017 report) .

We can also estimate App Economy jobs by mobile operating system. As of August 2020, there are 2.135 million jobs in the iOS ecosystem and 1.983 million jobs in the Android ecosystem, up 15% and 14%, respectively, from the April 2019 estimates.  Note that many App Economy jobs belong to both ecosystems.

In the middle of a pandemic-induced recession, well-known companies like Snapchat, Etsy, Capital One and Square have posted job openings for mobile app developers.  So have lesser-known companies like UrgentCare2go and ForeFlight in Texas; Echelon Fit Multimedia and Tomahawk Robotics in Florida; and Gambyt in Michigan; and Zumper in Illinois.  The demand for mobile app developers and other app-related jobs has been broad, across retail, finance, healthcare, networking, defense, and other industries.

The gains are driven in part by the overall rise in the number of people working in computer and mathematical occupations, which is a key input to our estimation procedure. Gains, not surprisingly, are also due to the increasing importance of mobile apps in a world of telehealth, virtual meetings, and remote learning.

The App Economy also has a history of being recession-resistant. Remember that Apple opened the first App Store in July 2008, just as the U.S. economy was plunging into financial crisis. The App Store and the others that followed, including Google Play (originally Android Market) which launched in October 2008, were successful despite historic economic turmoil.

Moreover, the App Economy served as an important engine for the long economic expansion that was ended by the pandemic in February 2020. The table below show our estimates of App Economy employment, going back to fall 2011. The table also includes an interpolated estimate for February 2020, the last pre-pandemic month.

We find that from July 2008 to February 2020  the App Economy generated a total of 2.4 million jobs, compared to the roughly 15 million nonfarm payroll jobs created by the whole U.S. economy. So an estimated 16% of net job growth since the creation of the App Store in July 2008 has come from the App Economy.

These calculations come with caveats, of course. We are tracking App Economy jobs by analyzing online job postings, an indirect methodology that is not as reliable as direct job counts. But it’s also true that the App Economy has transformed the way that people spend their time. According to one survey, American adults spent more than 2 ½ hours per day on mobile apps in 2019.  By comparison, government data shows the average American spends about 2 hours per day preparing meals, eating, and cleaning up afterwards.


The Rise of the App Economy, 2008-2020

Date of Estimate Date of Publication App Economy Jobs (thousands) Nonfarm payroll jobs (millions)
July 2008 Creation of App Store 0 137.5
November 2011 February 2012 466 132.7
April 2012 October 2012 519 133.8
June 2013 July 2013 752 136.3
December 2015 January 2016 1660 143.1
December 2016 May 2017 1729 145.4
April 2019 September 2019 2246 150.5
February 2020 interpolated 2417 152.5
August 2020 August 2020 2520 139.6 (July)
Data: South Mountain Economics, Progressive Policy Institute


We can do a similar calculation for the iOS and Android ecosystems as well, as the table below shows. The iOS ecosystem contributed an estimated 14% of net job growth from the creation of the App Store in July 2008 to February 2020, the peak month before the pandemic started.  Similarly, the Android ecosystem contributed an estimated 13% of net job growth between July 2008 and February 2020.


The App Economy’s Contribution to Job Growth

(share of nonfarm payroll job growth, July 2008-February 2020*)

All App Economy jobs 16%
iOS ecosystem 14%
Android ecosystem 13%
*Based on an interpolated estimate. Many App Economy jobs belong to both ecosystems. Data: Progressive Policy Institute


What about on the state level? Here are the top 20 states, ranked by the number of App Economy jobs as of August 2020.



App Economy Jobs by State, August 2020

California 531
Texas 199
New York 184
Florida 123
Virginia 115
Washington 114
Illinois 95
Massachusetts 90
Maryland 79
Pennsylvania 77
Georgia 73
North Carolina 70
Ohio 67
Colorado 60
New Jersey 59
Michigan 56
Minnesota 42
Arizona 39
Oregon 33
Tennessee 31
Data: Progressive Policy Institute


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