Jobs and Wages in the Bay Area

Asha John
March 21, 2014

If you’ve been paying any attention to local or national news recently, you know we have an inequality problem. In the Bay Area, especially in San Francisco, it has been playing out in the gentrification clashes between locals and tech workers moving into the city. Reading these stories got me wondering whether all this focus on housing is really helping us get to the heart of the inequality problem and the consequent affordability issue in the region. It seems as though we are missing an important piece of the bigger picture. Afterall, affordability is a two sided issue. On one side is certainly the rising cost of basic expenses like housing, on the other is income.

Understanding the income side of issue requires taking a closer look at the jobs picture of the regional economy. What kinds of jobs is this economy creating and what wages do these jobs pay? How many of these jobs pay enough to meet living expenses for the region? What are the proportion of well paying jobs to low paying jobs? To find answers to these questions, we have to start with data about actual jobs in the region. Fortunately a good data set is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles this information in its Occupational Employment Statistics report.

The Metro

The OES report lists various types of jobs and the estimated number of those jobs for different regions around the country. In the BLS data set, the Bay Area is broken down into multiple metro and non-metro regions. Metro regions combine multiple counties. The San Francisco metro for example, combines data from Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Click and select a metro region from the dropdown below to load the jobs and wage data for that region. The map will highlight the counties included in that metro region.

The data list for this region has a total of jobs. You can scroll through the table below to see the different jobs in the region. The table includes infromation about the average hourly wage and average annual wage for each job listed. You can click on any individual job to get details from BLS category details for that specific job. Mouse over the bars in the right most column to get details about the number of jobs for any given job listed.

Household and Cost of Living

Once we have the jobs and wages data, it is possible to combine it with cost of living data to check the affordability of these jobs. We can ask, is it for example, possible to survive in the South Bay as a waitress? The cost of living data comes from the MIT Living Wage calculator project. It lists basic expenses for different types of households. You can select from two different household types to see how wages from different jobs in a metro region, compares with cost of living in the region. The two types of households are - A Single Adult with no dependents or A Family of Four, with one working adult and three dependents - a spouse and two children.

Monthy Yearly
Child Care
The data is sorted by number of jobs, with the occupations that have the most number of jobs listed on top. Some of the job category titles are truncated. Click on them to see the full title and details as the BLS defines them.


Houly Wage

Annual Wage

Number of Jobs

Hover over the segments of the circle to see details of the jobs and the number of those jobs available. As you can see the affordability of a region depends to a great degree on the kinds of jobs available. Some regions have a better mix of low and high paying jobs, while others don’t. Change the metro in the dropdown above to see how the jobs and cost of living picture for different household types differs from one region to another.

Data Notes: All of the wage information is hourly or annual average for that particular job. Jobs in the list with incomplete information about hourly or annual wages were not included in the visualization. The cost of living information does not take into account taxes, subsidies and income from other government programs. Cost of living data, is listed by counties. I applied an weighted average (based on population), when combining the county data to match the metro regions. Both the BLS data and MIT Living Wage data is 2012 data. Learn more about the BLS data here, and the MIT Living Wage data here