Middle-Wage Jobs Report
The December 12 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle painted a grim picture at the top of the business section: “One Firm in Five Plans to Leave San Francisco.”
That headline ran in 1988.
Thirty-four years later, newspapers on both coasts have been running similar stories questioning the future of the City by the Bay, as relocation of both businesses and households away from the city became the dominant media narrative over much of the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has created questions about San Francisco’s path to recovery, with no shortage of opinion on both sides of the debate. Will San Francisco quickly return to its old form as one of the fastest-growing urban economies globally, or will it enter a new slower growth era as a middle-of-the-pack city?
What happens next will have repercussions for years, and the city’s aspirations for a more equitable and diverse community are at stake.
Previous recessions have reshaped the city’s economy and created a need for workforce development and economic policies that have revitalized specific industries and neighborhoods, such as the biotech payroll tax exemption and the Central Market tax exclusion. San Francisco’s future economic path coming out of the pandemic is not pre-ordained, and policymakers now have another chance to reinvigorate the city’s economy through policy and investment.
In this white paper, we first seek to provide insights on the city’s economic future while digging into the economic imbalances that existed before COVID-19 and that have been exacerbated by it. This analysis is based on the premise that after decades of dominating the world’s attention as a leading city for business, tourism, food, and creativity, San Francisco is at a critical inflection point, and the economic disruption of COVID-19 requires innovative policies to reignite the city’s economy. The second half of the analysis is focused on understanding middle-wage jobs in San Francisco, which can bring a new wave of job growth that provides opportunities not just to those at the top of the income spectrum but across it. We highlight their importance to a balanced urban economy and make policy recommendations that can put the city on a path to long-term economic sustainability.