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Bay Area offers top jobs for graduates but not homes they can afford

San Francisco, San Jose hungry for job seekers but short on affordable lodgings

Crowds of graduates in black caps and gowns at the Greek theater at UC Berkeley.
U.C. Berkeley commencement at the Greek Theater.
Photo by Andris

American universities will pass out nearly 2 million new bachelor’s degrees and nearly 800,000 master’s degrees this year. And the Bay Area presents one of the most promising and attractive job markets for recipients—until the first of the month rolls around and the rent is due.

Real estate site Trulia and resume site Indeed paired up for a study on which U.S. cities offer the most jobs and the most manageable housing costs to recent grads.

The good news, of course, is that San Francisco and San Jose both presented hot job markets, with 31.6 percent of San Jose companies and 26.8 percent of San Francisco employers on Indeed having a “high share of recent graduates.”

In this case that means “the share of job postings in each metro area in occupations where the share of college grads is at least twice as high as the national average, according to the census.” Note that Indeed is extrapolating only from its own listings.

The Bay Area also offers the best entry pay at Indeed jobs, averaging $3,333/month in the South Bay and $3,250/month in the San Francisco-East Bay region (before taxes) at grad jobs, the second and third highest in the country, behind only Washington DC.


But that makes the bad news painfully apparent—$3,250/month isn’t enough to afford even a one-bedroom apartment in the city at market rates. (New graduates are of course particularly unlikely to be sitting on a longtime, rent-controlled lease.)

The rental site RENTCafe released its latest rent report last week using data from the analytics firm Yardi Matrix, pegging a single bed in the city at $3,335/month in April (actually a significant decline, down 3.6 percent from the same time last year).

RENTCafe’s various competitors all offered similar figures a few days earlier. San Jose averaged $2,556 in April, which is at least theoretically attainable on Indeed’s estimated $3,333/month salary, although it’s still an awfully deep hole to be in every four weeks.

“Nearly all of the metros with the most job opportunities are among the least affordable,” writes Trulia economist Ralph McLaughlin. “No metro is high on both dimensions.”

Stanford, 2007
Eric Chan

It’s worth noting that although Indeed’s Bay Area salaries for entry gigs are high compared to the rest of the country, they’re low relative to most other regional jobs.

The census estimates that the median household income in the city is more than $6,770/month, even though many of those households are dual-income homes.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2016 that the average San Francisco worker takes home about $5,600/month individually.

Nevertheless, it’s discomforting that most eager young grads in the country’s best job market will end almost helpless to secure a lease on even a small place. Even go-getters can only go and get so much.