The SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco brought together a labor economist and an urban economist to discuss their research on the workforce and the built environment. They painted a thought-provoking picture of where people (can afford to) live and work in the Bay Area.
Linkedin, who also presented their people data at the Wharton People Analytics Conference in 2016, has data on over 146 million workers in the U.S. This information, published in LinkedIn’s monthly Workforce Report, supplements public data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics It provides Guy Berger and LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team an opportunity to shine a spotlight on labor trends. For Berger, one narrative that emerges from the data is that the Bay Area has a surplus of specialized technology and engineering talent, but a shortage of service sector workers. For example, while it may be easy to find a cloud engineer in the Bay Area, it is more difficult to find high-quality teachers.
This story was complemented by Issi Romem’s research for BuildZoom, a technology startup that collects construction and housing information from public licensing and permit data. Romem said that San Francisco and other expensive coastal cities are creating housing “refugees”. He pointed out that the average household migrating to San Francisco makes $25,000 more per year than the average household leaving. The result of this discrepancy is that the workforce is moving further from the city center. San Francisco now actually includes the nine counties of the Bay Area: from Alameda to Solano and Santa Clara.
They concluded that the unaffordability of the region threatens its socioeconomic and workforce diversity. While the picture they painted is bleak, it also reveals ways to address the polarization of urban communities across the United States. Just as densification can generate benefits in the workplace, there is strong evidence showing the economic and social benefits of urban densification. Overall, the discussion reinforced a need for local governments, developers and employers to continue to think about the geography of work and home as two sides of the same coin.