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Only One Big U.S. City Pays a Higher Minimum Wage Than San Francisco

Written by Maryann Jones ThompsonPublished Feb. 22, 2023 • 7:00am
Workers prepare to serve lunch in San Francisco in 2011. | Eric Risberg/AP Photo

Despite all its challenges, San Francisco remains a national leader in worker pay. After announcing a 6% increase for 2023, SF’s new $18.07 wage will rank it second among the nation’s largest 25 cities when it takes effect on July 1.

With a pay rate of $18.69 per hour, only Seattle guarantees its workers more than SF.

Many top U.S. cities still match their pay to the $7.25 minimum wage required by the federal government, an hourly rate that has not been increased since 2009. All of the big metros in Texas as well as Charlotte, Nashville and Philadelphia fall into this category of minimum minimum-wage cities.

The ranking doesn’t take into account the fact that some classes of workers and geographic areas qualify for different wages. For example, tipped workers often make a lower minimum wage, as do workers at companies with fewer than 25 employees, while certain economic zones pay even higher—such as the Seattle-Tacoma airport’s $19.06 per hour rate.

And, of course, the pay rates don’t take into account San Francisco’s high cost of living, either. 

To help defray these costs, California set its 2023 minimum wage at $15.50 per hour. Yet even at this elevated level statewide, 40 cities in the Golden State mandate an even higher hourly rate. 

The highest minimum wage in the state is found in West Hollywood. The small SoCal city known for its competitive wages now pays workers $18.86 per hour. 

San Francisco’s wage ranks third in California, below Mountain View and above 13 Bay Area cities following close behind.

Shelley D. Fargo contributed additional research for this story.

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