Before anything else, let’s glory in our superiority. On average, people in the Bay Area are making a lot of money (too bad so much goes to keeping a roof over our heads).
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its latest numbers on employment and wages throughout the United States, says average wages throughout the region are generally much higher than the national average of $22.33 an hour. The South Bay average is $34.45 an hour, which is 54 percent above the national average; in the San Francisco area, it’s $32.41, which is 45 percent higher than the U.S. mean; and in the East Bay, it’s $28.70, or 28.5 percent higher than the all-American average. Those newly released stats are all from May 2013, by the way.
Beyond the “we sure make a lot of money hereabouts” headline, the bureau’s numbers render a sharp statistical snapshot of the technology workforce and its economic impact in the region.
First, note that while tech workers are well paid, they’re not the highest-paid folks in the region. According to the bureau’s report, that distinction belongs in the Bay Area and nationwide to medical professionals: Psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, surgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists, orthodontists and oral-maxillofacial surgeons are at or near the top of the money list in every California metro area, with average yearly wages topping $200,000. Chief executive officers and lawyers also are among the top-paid professions.
Second, while there are a lot of tech workers here — by one measure, the South Bay has the highest concentration of technology workers in the country — other metro areas (Washington, D.C., Seattle and New York) have a significantly higher number of people working in what the BLS calls “Computer and Mathematical Occupations.”
Third, the BLS stats are a reminder that in many parts of the Bay Area, a great majority of people are working outside the technology industry. In the area the bureau calls San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (actually comprised of Santa Clara and San Benito counties), those in “Office and Administrative Support Positions,” a category ranging from bill collectors to gaming-cage workers, outnumber tech workers roughly 122,000 to 97,000. In the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City area (corresponding to Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties), the tech worker population is outnumbered by those working in office support, sales, food services, financial services and management occupations.
So why does tech employment have such an outsize impact here?
The bureau’s statistics suggest it’s a combination of that high concentration of tech workers here combined with the wages the industry pays. In Silicon Valley, tech workers make up about four times the share of the workforce than they do nationwide — about 10.5 percent versus 2.8 percent across the entire U.S. labor pool. In the San Francisco region, 6.8 percent of workers are in tech occupations.
And the pay? Perhaps reflecting and partially feeding the unhappy reality of Bay Area property prices, tech wages here are the highest in the country. In Silicon Valley, the BLS says the mean annual tech wage is $115,870, the equivalent of $55.71 an hour. In San Francisco, the figures are $103,780 and $49.89. Those salaries are ahead of every other tech hub in the country.
A glance at the other end of the wage spectrum also provides some concrete evidence of the have/have-not divide that’s led to our regional uneasiness over high real estate prices, Google buses and wealth inequality in general. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are about 50,000 software developers in Silicon Valley with an average annual wage of $130,000 or so. There are also about 55,000 dishwashers, manicurists, fast-food workers, wait staff, parking lot attendants and many others making somewhere between $19,000 and $23,000 a year.