Silicon Valley Workers Raking in the Dough

High cost-of-living driving up wages

The San Francisco Bay Area has the highest wages in the country for the sixth consecutive year, according to a pay comparison report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The National Compensation Survey has studied pay in 77 metropolitan areas since 2004, and with wages 19 percent higher than the national average, the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area continues to top the list, just as it has every year the data has been released.

The report studies more than 800 detailed occupations and nine general industries, including professional, sales and production.

Although the Bay Area doesn't lead every category, it has particularly high marks in the service and construction industries: 26 and 23 percent above average, respectively.

"San Francisco has an unusually high minimum wage, which probably  explains why in particular the service industry is 26 percent higher than the average," said Tony Nunes, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "That field tends to have a lot of minimum wage jobs."

At $9.79, San Francisco does not have the highest minimum wage in the country - Santa Fe's is $9.85.

But Nunes said San Francisco's high wages and high cost of living act is in a reciprocal nature, slowly driving each other up.

"San Francisco is a densely populated metropolitan area," he said. "People are closely packed in and space is at a premium, so costs are high and wages are high. It's self-reinforcing."

The National Compensation Survey measures wages and calculates "pay relatives," a calculation of wages, salaries, commissions and production bonuses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, researchers set up simple ratios and multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

The San Francisco area scored 119 overall, meaning its wages are 19 percent above the national average.

The survey controls for factors such as the occupational composition and leading industries of an area, but it does not take into account factors such as a pleasant climate or cultural amenities.

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