The mobile app industry is a rare bright spot amid an otherwise gloomy economy. The development of apps – specialized programs that run on a smart phone or other device – has created more than 520,000 US jobs over the industry's first five years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Entrepreneurial in spirit, social in execution, and global in reach, the industry is expected to experience job growth of 28 percent – twice as much as the projected average growth for all areas – between 2010 and 2020. The pay isn't bad, either. In May 2011, the median annual wage of applications developers was $92,080, according to the BLS.
"This industry, which literally did not exist five years ago, is exploding," says Jake Ward, cofounder of the Application Developers Alliance, a Washington-based industry association.
Most of the jobs are centered in the traditional tech powerhouses of California and Washington State – the homes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. But the app economy has also taken root in unexpected locales like Georgia and southwest Virginia.
The app boom is impressive, but is it enough to put America back to work? Andrew McAfee, associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, isn't so sure.