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What Happened to the Tech Job Boom?

In the 1990s, we witnessed the explosion of the PC revolution and the early days of the internet era. It spurred a stock market boom and a brief period of a federal US budget surplus. The optimism of that decade supposed whatever disruptions to existing industries – and their workers – new technologies would bring, the growth in employment in the companies driving the new economy would make up for it.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported computer and data processing services gained over a million jobs from 1989-1999, placing that part of tech employment in the top five of industry job growth in that decade. In 2000, the top five US-based companies in high tech by stock market value were Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, IBM, and Oracle (not in order). In 2016, the top companies by market value were Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, and Oracle. But together, they employed only about 455,000 people, compared with some 550,000 by their counterparts in the year 2000. Over that same 15-year period, the market value of the five largest tech companies grew from $1.3 trillion to $2.2 trillion, a 76 percent increase.