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December 2007, Vol. 130, No. 12
Estimating economic losses in the Bay Area from a magnitude-6.9 earthquake
Richard J. Holden, Donna Bahls, and Charles Real
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Hayward Fault in northern California generates, on average, "a damaging earthquake every 150 years." The Hayward Fault is considered "the single most dangerous fault in the entire Bay Area because it is ready to pop and because nearly 2 million people live directly on top of it."1 The last major earthquake on the Hayward Fault occurred 139 years ago, in 1868. It was known as the “Great San Francisco Earthquake” until 1906, when the city experienced a larger and more damaging earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. The Hayward Fault underlies Alameda County, a heavily populated urban area in northern California that is home to 41,000 employers, 682,000 employees, and a total quarterly payroll of $9.3 billion. In addition, Alameda County lies over approximately three-fourths of the length of the fault and therefore faces the greatest potential exposure to a damaging earthquake occurring on the fault. Geologists estimate that the fault has a 27-percent chance of experiencing a seismic event by 2032.
This article analyzes and maps employer data on employment and wages to assess potential business and economic losses from a magnitude-6.9 earthquake in northern California along the Hayward Fault. The article uses data from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) to demonstrate how these data—when combined with seismic hazards information—can be used to assess potential business and economic losses from a major earthquake. (Such an approach could also be used to assess the damages from other natural disasters.) Labor market analysts from the California Employment Development Department overlaid employment data from the QCEW onto seismic hazard information provided by the California Geological Survey to produce maps and tabulations that correlate estimated shaking intensities with employment levels for the counties in the San Francisco Bay Area that lie along the Hayward Fault.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 2007 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 A Virtual Tour of the Hayward Fault (U.S. Geological Survey), Mar. 9, 2006, available on the Internet at www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1452.
Related BLS programs
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
Geospatial distribution of employment: a new visual asset, The.—Mar. 2007.
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