Employers make pricey Bay Area living worthwhile

Bay Area residents might need deep pockets to live here, but at least their pay is among the highest in the nation, according to federal data.

In terms of average wages, San Francisco and San Mateo are among the top 15 highest-paying counties, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The top-notch pay is relative to the cost of living in one of the nation’s most desirable locations, where housing prices top the nation and highways connecting high-technology and finance epicenters swarm with commuters.

The median price of a home in the Bay Area was $704,580 last month — about $300,000 more than the statewide average, according to the California Association of Realtors. Renters in The City need to earn $30.62 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment and live comfortably, the data show.

That doesn’t take into account The City’s soaring gas prices, which topped the nation this week at just under $4 per gallon.

The Bay Area’s natural beauty — with access to everything from surfing, hiking and skiing — and desirable climate make buying a home here among the costliest in the nation, economists say.

“You have to pay the competitive wage to attract people,” said Rob Black, vice president for public policy with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

The Bay Area also has a higher concentration of workers with a bachelor’s degree than all comparable metropolitan regions, according to a recent report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

The region attracts a highly educated work force with its top-notch universities and unique strengths in high technology, information services, life sciences and financial services, the institute says.

Black said San Francisco is “uniquely positioned in the U.S to reap the benefits of both the biotech sector and the emerging green-tech sector.”

He also said a possible spike in tourism in the near future, helped by the weakening U.S. dollar, could further raise the average wage in The City. A surge in tourism would raise wages for the workers catering to tourists, and heighten demand for that work, he said.

maldax@examiner.com

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