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San Franciscans stuck at work, in traffic longer than almost any city

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Census data crunch shows SF is one of America’s “hardest working” cities—or merely one of the cities where people are stuck at the office longest

Cars parked beneath two freeway overpasses in San Francisco. Photo via Shutterstock

Kempler Industries—a machine company based in Illinois that rarely delves deeply into demographic and statistical data—broke down U.S. Census data this week to find the hardest-working cities in America.

Or at least that’s the company’s reading of its survey, which designated San Francisco the seventh “hardest-working” city nationwide, right in between Texas cities Garland and Irving. Washington DC took the number one spot (jokes about Congress notwithstanding).

However, many San Franciscans would probably look at Kempler’s stats with a less rosy disposition, as the survey is also an admission that San Franciscans work longer hours, put up with longer commutes, and accrue more unused vacation time than workers in most other U.S. cities—which is no cause for celebration.

Kempler says that the average workweek in San Francisco is 40.1 hours. Only two cities on the list—Texas cities Dallas and, once again, Irving—put in more hours than SF, although several other cities logged the same figure.

The average commute in SF is 32.8 minutes, making it the city with the seventh-longest commute.

If that seems like a suspiciously brief commute time to some, note that data about commute times and working hours comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which found that the average commute out of 980 metro areas was 26.1 minutes, making SF’s daily crunch actually quite interminable by comparison.

In December of 2017, the Census also noted that “the longest average one-way travel times are generally associated with larger metro areas or smaller metro areas within commuting distance of a larger metro area.”

The larger SF-Oakland-Hayward area had a slightly faster commute time at 32.1 minutes, and the SF-Redwood City-South SF region even less, at 30.5 But the Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley census tract put up with 33.5 minutes on average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time U.S. worker averages 8.5 hours at work per day. Assuming a five-day workweek, that’s 42.5 hours per week, outstripping SF’s performance.

However, part-time workers, which account for nearly 21 percent of the workforce, only put in an average of 5.17 hours per day.

Odds are a lot of SF workers might prefer conditions that more closely resemble those in some of America’s least “hard-working” cities, particularly when the traffic malaise sets in.