Job hunting? Tech skills increasingly tied to higher wages and economic opportunity

All jobs are becoming tech jobs, to some extent. (BigStock Photo)

Digital prowess has become one of the most powerful bargaining chips in the American job market over a relatively short period of time, according to a report from the Brookings Institute.

The study — part of a series of reports Brookings published as a 2017 retrospective — looked at jobs in three categories: those requiring high, medium, and low levels of digital skills. Researchers found that between 2002-2016 the percentage of jobs requiring low digital skills dropped from 56 to 30. Jobs requiring medium digital skills rose from 40 percent to 48. Most staggeringly, jobs requiring high digital skills rose from 5 percent to 23 percent.

(Brookings Institute)

Although the job market has seen a sharp rise in what researchers call “digitalization,” tech jobs are still largely stratified by region, race, gender, and industry. Men and white people dominate the jobs requiring the highest level of digital skills while African Americans and Hispanics are overrepresented in fields that require medium or low technical abilities.

Service sectors, like professional, scientific and technical services, media, finance, and insurance saw the biggest increase in digitalization. The slowest to digitalize are education, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and warehousing.

That matters because wages and job opportunity are increasingly tied to tech skills. The mean annual wage for jobs requiring a high level of digital skills was $72,896 in 2016. Workers in jobs requiring medium-level tech chops earned $48,274 on average and positions requiring a low level of digital skills earned $30,393 on average, according to the report.

(Brookings Institute)

Those salaries reflect disproportionate wage growth over the past several years. Jobs requiring high tech skills saw wages grow more than 0.8 percent between 2010 to 2016. At the middle-level, annual wage growth was 0.3 percent and in the lowest tier, it was 0.2 percent.

Brookings analyzed O*Net, OES, and Moody’s data to come up with its findings. The institute is typically considered to be non-partisan and is one of D.C.’s most prominent think tanks.

See the full report here.