Firms in this sector design, develop, and publish software that address a variety of consumer needs including financial management, social networking, mobile services, business intelligence, Internet security, and open source development. Their services are in high demand as most organizations today depend on software technology to run their business and operate more efficiently.
Oregon software publishers work on a vast array of products. You might not recognize their names, but chances are you've used one of their products. Symantec, initially known for Norton Antivirus, has become a leader in computer security software. In Portland, Janrain develops software that allows websites to accept logins from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A few blocks away, Tripwire is working on data security and Jive is creating social networking software for businesses. The list, over 600 strong, goes on.
Employment peaked in 2001, and then the dot-com bubble burst. Nationally, business spending on software came to a screeching halt after five years of annual gains averaging 20 percent. Oregon's software industry lost over one-quarter of its job base over the next three years.
Job growth resumed in 2004, and by 2008 employment reached record highs - just in time for the second recession of the decade. But while many industries in Oregon suffered steep job losses during the Great Recession, software publishers remained relatively unscathed. After just a year of mild losses, the industry held steady in 2010 and 2011 before growth resumed in 2012. According to Alex Yoder, CEO of Portland-based Web analytics firm WebTrends, the industry remained strong because even in difficult times businesses still need technology to boost productivity and increase efficiency. He contrasts this with the recession of 2001 to 2003, when Web-based technology was less mature and not as integral to business operations and success.
With a few exceptions, Oregon software publishing firms are small. Three-quarters employ fewer than 10 workers, nearly identical to the pattern for all industries. The median firm size is two employees.
High earnings go hand in hand with the emphasis on high-level technical skills and education. The average wage topped $92,900 in 2012. It's not just a handful of well-compensated CEOs bringing up the average - almost half of all workers earn $40 an hour or more, and nearly one-third earn $50 hourly (Graph 3). Overall, the median wage in software publishing is $37.02 an hour; more than double that for all industries ($17.28).
Software publishing's younger workforce reflects the industry's relative newcomer status along with its rapid growth. Twenty years ago software was just beginning to come onto the scene. Yet half of today's workers were already in the workforce back then, learning skills and heading down career paths that likely had little to do with this very small, largely unknown, and highly technical sector. It's the recent graduates who are more apt to possess the education and latest skills required for many software occupations, and therefore better prepared to fill the thousands of jobs that have been created over the past decade.
In Oregon, software publishing job growth will outpace most industries. Between 2010 and 2020, the Oregon Employment Department projects software publishers will grow by nearly 50 percent, an increase of 4,400 jobs. In comparison, total statewide growth is projected to be 18 percent during this same time period. Our optimism is fueled not only by national trends in this industry, but by our growing reputation as a place for start-ups and innovation.
This industry, like software publishing, barely noticed the recession. Employment inched up in 2008 and 2009, before taking off in 2010. Over the next three years, it expanded by about 1,000 jobs. Growth was undoubtedly buoyed by private investment; companies in this industry attract much of the state's venture capital, including Urban Airship, Shop Igniter, and Act-On.