The race for artificial intelligence (AI) is on, according to a ZipRecruiter report. The 2020 Future of Work report determined the US states leading the way in AI, those with the brightest future, as well as the ones falling short. Between 2018 and 2019 alone, the jobs marketplace saw a 44% increase in demand for candidates with AI or machine learning skills, a 151% increase in demand for candidates with deep learning skills, and a 176% increase in candidates with robotic design skills.

SEE: Special report: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The majority (84%) of US CEOs and business leaders said they feel AI is important to the future success of their company. The biggest benefits of AI include creating better efficiencies (62%), helping business remain competitive (62%), and allowing organizations to gain a better understanding of their customers, an EY survey found.

While most organizations are moving toward AI, ZipRecruiter identified the four states at the forefront of AI innovation.

4 AI pioneer states

AI jobs accounted for four of every 1,000 general job postings on ZipRecruiter in 2019, up from less than 1 in 2016. The jobs are heavily concentrated in the following four AI pioneer states, which are home to Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.

1. California
AI jobs: 10 in 1,000 job postings in 2019
AI-related jobs: 68 in 1,000 job postings in 2019

2. Washington
AI jobs: 8 in 1,000 job postings in 2019
AI-related jobs: 56 in 1,000 job postings in 2019

3. Massachusetts
AI jobs: 8 in 1,000 job postings in 2019
AI-related jobs: 63 in 1,000 job postings in 2019

4. New York
AI jobs: 6 in 1,000 job postings in 2019
AI-related jobs: 61 in 1,000 job postings in 2019

Within these states, AI-related jobs grew by 35% between 2017 and 2019, the report found. These states have the world’s leading universities and hospitals, a long history of international migration, some of the most vibrant cities, and a well developed financial sector.

The states also rose to the top by having the most AI startups, AI venture capital deals, and hiring the majority of the country’s AI engineers, according to the report.

None of these states are too surprising, however, said Ian Siegel, CEO and co-founder of online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

“If I blindfolded you and said, ‘Guess what the top two states are for technology innovation,’ you probably would get at least one of them. You would have said California. Obviously, that is the mecca of tech still to this day,” Siegel noted.

“Massachusetts is an obvious one because some of the finest institutions in the country are in Massachusetts, producing some of the best computer science grads, whether it’s Harvard or MIT,” he said.

“And then Washington, which obviously hosts a number of the biggest tech companies in the world,” Siegel added. “[Those companies] are making a massive investment in AI and they’re recruiting a lot of talent into Washington.”

In 2019, these top four states made up 60% of the total AI jobs and 34% of the total AI-related jobs in the ZipRecruiter marketplace. Despite having AI success, these states do present some drawbacks.

While the areas might be ripe for AI talent, the drawbacks of high taxes, high energy costs, and costly housing are causing some job seekers to look elsewhere. Last year, California-based job seekers responded to 1.8 million out-of-state job postings on ZipRecruiter, and New York-based job seekers responded to 1.6 million.

Next generation of AI winners

As AI continues innovating, so do US states. The next generation of AI-leading states have expanded the talent pools, growing numbers of AI startups, and growing numbers of AI expert job postings in the ZipRecruiter marketplace.

These are the top 10 up-and-coming AI leaders:

1. Colorado
2. Utah
3. Virginia
4. Texas
5. Arizona
6. Florida
7. North Carolina
8. Nevada
9. Oregon
10. Idaho

These states have seen a 93% growth in AI-related jobs on ZipRecruiter between 2017 and 2019. AI-related jobs include those connected to the production and sale of AI-based goods and products including autonomous vehicles, algorithmic trading, digital marketing, streaming services, chatbots, and brain-computer interfaces, according to the report.

To rise to the top, these states hold an accumulation of qualities and strategies. They all have access to talent, pro-business policies, relatively low housing costs, short commutes, vibrant downtown areas, high birth rates, and sunny weather, the report found.

“Portland and Austin, they made very specific investments roughly five or six years ago into revitalizing downtown areas, like planting trees and putting in bike paths,” Siegel said.

“But more importantly, they created a ton of affordable housing that was in close proximity to that area to create these havens for businesses and the people who work there, so that they feel a real sense of community and an ideal environment,” Siegel added.

Another aspect contributing to the onslaught of AI-related jobs are drones. This tech is particularly impactful for remote pilots, maintenance technicians, software engineers, manufacturers, and support staff. These jobs are most prevalent in AI pioneer states, but emerging tech hubs in Texas and Virginia are joining.

AI laggards

While many states are on the AI train, half of Americans live in states that are behind in the AI rush. The following states only saw a combined 21% growth rate in AI-related jobs on ZipRecruiter between 2017 and 2019, the report found.

1. Louisiana
2. Kansas
3. Alaska
4. Mississippi
5. West Virginia
6. Connecticut
7. Vermont
8. New Hampshire
9. Wisconsin
10. Indiana

The biggest disadvantages leading to AI setbacks include poor education systems, unfriendly business environments, undiversified economies, and cold winters, according to the report. Weather plays a significant factor, as many people avoid extremely cold climates.

Siegel estimated that it would take these states at least five years to catch up, but the report said those states can take the following steps to improve their AI preparedness:

  • Improve school systems and education outcomes
  • Encourage businesses to adopt an outskilling model
  • Focus on making the state a great place to live
  • Adopt more business-friendly policies, eliminating onerous taxes and regulations

Job seekers in these states can still improve their own AI readiness, however, by exploring online training, education, and networking opportunities, as well as explore remote work options, according to the report.

For more, check out How AI is impacting the workplace on TechRepublic.

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Image: iStockphoto/metamorworks