Why is this Important?


Job growth expands a community’s economy, while employment spread across industries reduces the impacts of a recession. A growing economy with high employment rates leads to increased business investment and generates revenue for local and state governments to fund public services. Rising wages raise the standard of living for workers, which can further accelerate economic growth.

High employment rates are good for the overall economy, but on an individual level, employment has many personal benefits. Being employed in a job that pays a living wage not only allows people to support their families, it also contributes to positive emotional well-being. Employment and health are also linked, with studies showing employed people more likely to report having good health than the unemployed.

San Mateo County’s central location between two major employment hubs in San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties and a lack of affordable housing on the peninsula means that the county has high levels of cross-county commuting. On a given work day, over 500,000 workers commute into, out of, and within San Mateo County, placing tremendous stress on our aging transportation infrastructure. The resulting traffic congestion lengthens commute times, reduces worker productivity, and increases air pollution.


What is a Sustainable State?


In a sustainable state, employment is spread across industries, and the availability of jobs and workers with matching skills is in balance. Jobs pay at least a living wage, meaning that workers earn the minimum income needed to meet basic needs such as shelter, clothing, and food. Workers are able to conveniently reach their jobs via a variety of transportation choices, including public transit, walking, biking, and ride-sharing.

[/smc-hide] [smc-hide]
  • In 2015, civilian employment (number of employed county residents) was 427,000, a 3.5% increase from the year prior.
  • Industry employment (number of jobs located within the county) climbed to 384,200 in 2015 (the latest year for which annual data is available), up 3.15% from the year prior. The number of jobs is only 2.05% below the 2000 levels due to recent growth.
  • Since 2000, the fastest growing job sectors in the county are: Educational & Health Services (+51%) and Leisure & Hospitality (+38%).
  • In 2015, the annual unemployment rate in the county fell to 3.4%, well below state and national rates.
  • Median household income for county residents was $101,272 in 2015, up 0.22% from the year prior.
  • Average weekly wages, which track wages paid by employers in San Mateo County and include other compensation such as stock options and bonuses, reached record highs in the county in 2012 and remained relatively stagnant 2013-2015. The increase was not distributed throughout the workforce equally, but instead concentrated among some of the highest wage earners.
[smc-trend-box] [smc-trend name=”Jobs” dir=”up” new=1 tags=”jobs”] [smc-trend name=”Unemployment” dir=”up” new=1 tags=”unemployment”] [smc-trend name=”Income and Wages” id=”wages” new=1 dir=”up” tags=”income_distribution”] [smc-trend name=”Transportation: Mobility” id=”transportation:mobility” new=1 dir=”down” tags=”transportation_public_transit”] [/smc-trend-box]



  • In 2015, civilian employment in the county rose to 427,000 jobs, a 3.5% increase from the year prior and up 24.7% from the low point in 2010.
  • Civilian employment in 2014 and 2015 finally surpassed that of 2000 (386,800).


  • Industry employment tracks the number of jobs at employers located in San Mateo County.
  • The service sector accounts for 86.9% of jobs in the county, while goods production is only 12.6%.
  • Agriculture jobs constitute .5% of industry employment, a decrease from 1% in 2013.

Service Sector Jobs, San Mateo County, 2015

  • In 2015, the overall number of jobs increased by 3%, and service jobs increased by 5%. For many, the monthly average rent ($2,562 for a 1 bedroom and $2,856 for a 2 bedroom) is half a month’s wage.
  • The average wages for several types of service jobs are listed below (monthly/annually).
    • Chefs and Head Cooks: $4,451 / $53,412
    • Computer Programmers: $8,852 / $106,234
    • Elementary School Teachers: $5,823 / $69,883
    • Financial Analysts: $11,006 / $132,069
    • Forest and Conservation Technicians: $3,190 / $38,805
    • Legislators: $5,743 / $68,919
    • Paramedics and EMTs: $4,695 / $56,336


  • “Professional and Business Services” jobs became the largest category of service jobs in 2015.
  • Within the “Trade, Transportation & Utilities” sector, “Transportation, Warehousing & Utilities” jobs decreased the most, 79% since 2000.

UpdatedMarch2015Percent of Businesses by Business Size SMC 3rd Quarter 2013

  • The majority of the 24,797 businesses in the county are small businesses (0-9 employees).


  • Although the majority of businesses in the county are small (0-9 employees), most of the employees in the county work for larger sized companies with 50 or more employees.
  • The largest employers in the county include: San Francisco International Airport, Genentech, Oracle, the County of San Mateo, and Kaiser Permanente.
  • Other large employers in the county (with more than 1,000 employees) are Visa, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Salesforce, Franklin Resources, San Mateo County Community College District, Safeway, Electronic Arts, Gilead Sciences, Guckenheimer, Seton Medical Center, Virgin America, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory.

(jump to top of page)



  • The unemployment rate continued to decline at the county, state, and federal level for the fifth straight year since it peaked in 2010.

(jump to top of page)

Income and Wages

Median household income is one way to measure income of residents in the county: half of households earn more than the median income and half earn less. It’s considered a more reliable indicator than the average income because it is less likely to be skewed by outlier data, such as unusually high or low incomes.

  • San Mateo County’s median household income rose 0.22% in 2015.
  • California and the nation saw a rise in median income of approximately 4% in 2015.

  • The distribution of income in San Mateo County changed considerably from 2007 to 2015. In 2007, 59% of county households had income under $99,000; by 2015, this percentage decreased to 49%.

Average weekly wages

Average weekly wages track wages paid by employers in San Mateo County and include other compensation such as stock options and bonuses. Unlike median household income, average weekly wage data are more likely to be skewed by unusually large or small values.

Average Weekly Wages San Mateo County, 2006-2015


  • Average weekly wages grew by 31% in 2012, reaching a record high of $2,057, driven by increased wages in the Financial Activities and Professional and Business Services industry segments. Since 2013, the average wages remained virtually stagnant.

  • The Information Sector has the highest weekly average in the county, though it decreased by 2% compared to 2014.
  • The wages for education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and trade, transportation and utilities sectors are lagging significantly behind the other three sectors contributing to rising income inequality within the county.


Rising Wages

To address the increased cost of living in 2014, California raised its minimum wage from $8/hour to $9/hour, and increased again in 2016 to $10/hour. Meanwhile, San Francisco supervisors passed an ordinance to increase the minimum wage from $10.74 to $15/hour by 2018. In 2016, the San Mateo City Council increased the minimum wage within the city limits to $15 per hour. The ordinance will reach full implementation by 2019, with an extension for nonprofit organizations. At least 25% of low-wage workers in the city earn less than $15 per hour as of 2015. Beginning in 2020, the San Mateo City Council will adjust the minimum wage each year to match the cost of living in accordance with the Regional Consumer Price Index.

(jump to top of page)




  • Over 144,099 people commute into San Mateo County from neighboring counties and 147,902 residents commute out.
  • Commuters come to the county from all over the state and the nation and vise versa.
  • In 2013, 350 people commuted from San Mateo County to Los Angeles County, while 705 commuters travel from Los Angeles to San Mateo County.


  • In 2013, southbound single occupancy drivers traveling in the morning were on highway 101 an average of 11 minutes longer, an increase of 46% compared to 2009.
  • In January 2015, Caltrain had the highest ridership of all the public transportation modes in the county with 59,916 passengers per week. Commute times are faster on bullet trains and 16 bullet trains make 92 stops in San Mateo County each morning.

  • Compared to 2013, the number of people who work from home increased by 25% and the number of commuters who drove alone decreased by 3% in 2015.
  • The “Other” category increased by 50%, and includes bicycles (5,240 commuters), motorcycles (880 commuters), and other means (4,260 commuters).
  • The transit category includes bus, trolley, streetcar, subway, railroad, and ferry.


  • Compared with the United States, San Mateo County has a larger share of transit commuters and a lower share of those driving alone.
  • San Francisco County, with its extensive public transit system and dense development near work, has dramatically different commute modes: only 36% of San Francisco commuters drive alone, while 33% take transit.


  • BART and Caltrain ridership has continued to increase, 9% and 8% respectively, from the year prior.
  • Although SamTrans average ridership has declined sharply since 2009, ridership has increased by 2% from the year prior.

(jump to top of page)