Last spring Technet asked me to examine the size of the ‘App Economy’, focusing on the number of jobs being created. The official job statistics from the BLS were no help, given the speed at which the App Economy was evolving. Instead, I developed an innovative methodology for using a ’21st century’ database, The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine, to track App Economy jobs.
App Economy now is responsible for roughly 466,000 jobs in the United States, up from zero in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced. This total includes jobs at ‘pure’ app ﬁrms such as Zynga, a San Francisco-based maker of Facebook game apps that went public in December 2011. App Economy employment also includes app-related jobs at large companies such as Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT&T, as well as app ‘infrastructure’ jobs at core ﬁrms such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. In additional, the App Economy total includes employment spillovers to the rest of the economy
I want to make several points here.
- In earlier research done for the Progressive Policy Institute, I looked at ‘job leaders’–industries that, coming out of recession, manage to create new jobs well before the rest of the economy. I found that the industries which are the job leaders during a recession tend to be the big drivers of the expansion that follows. So during the recession of 1990-91, the job leaders were infotech services such as software, computer systems design and data processing services, all of which turned out to be big job creators in the tech boom of the 1990s. Similarly, the job leaders in the recession of 2001 were finance, real estate, and residential construction, signalling the housing and financial job growth from 2001-2007
- Today, the App Economy is clearly a job leader. It managed to create jobs during the worst recession since the Great Depression, suggesting that the App Economy will be a major driver of job growth during the coming expansion.
- The App Economy cross-cuts industries, including leading internet companies such as Google and Facebook, hardware/software developers such as Apple and Electronic Arts, smaller app developers, and wireless providers such as AT&T.
- State and local governments that want to participate in the coming expansion should think about encouraging App Economy jobs. The methodology I used enabled me to identify App Economy jobs by state and MSA. Much more could be done along these lines.
- The federal government needs to adopt policies to encourage App Economy growth. More about this in my next post.