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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

November 2014

November 25, 2014

Lighthouse for the Blind

There are approximately 1.3 million people who are blind living in the United States. Like any other individuals, they need and want jobs. This is where Lighthouse for the Blind comes in.

As a privately-funded non-profit, they provide employment, support, and training opportunities for people who are blind, deaf-blind, and blind with other disabilities. Their military roots run deep, which makes San Diego an ideal location for Lighthouse. Not only do they serve many veterans with disabilities, but the military is also one of its largest customers.

This week, we spoke with Kirk Adams, president and CEO, to learn more about why this social enterprise operates in San Diego.

1) Tell us about Lighthouse for the Blind
We provide jobs to people who are blind, deaf-blind, and blind with other disabilities. In San Diego, we operate a Servmart, which is a store where military, civilians, and contractors can purchase the supplies from paperclips to tactical equipment and clothing.  We specialize in offering a high volume of AbilityOne (blind-made) products and expert knowledge of military requirements. We also operate two Contract Management Support (CMS) services in San Diego and are currently closing out contracts for NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Command in downtown San Diego, and DCMA (Defense Contracting Management Agency) in Kearny Mesa. CMS services help mitigate the critical government shortage of contract specialists by providing post-contract award administration support services. The Lighthouse employs 14 employees who are legally blind in San Diego. On the West Coast, we employ more than 240 people who are blind in 11 different locations. 

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?

Why Lighthouse chose San Diego

San Diego makes sense for us because of the strong military economy; it is where our customers and contracts are located, such as the Navy base. Additionally, there is a large population of capable blind adults looking for employment in the San Diego area. Growing our business means jobs for San Diegans who are frequently overlooked in traditional employment settings. Our mission – “to create and enhance opportunities for independence and self-sufficiency of people who are blind, deaf-blind, and blind with other disabilities” – stems from veterans who are blind returning from WWII with no hope for employment. Today, our mission is more critical than ever with the numbers of service men and women returning blinded from IED’s (improvised explosive devises) used in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game. 
Qualcomm is committed to an environment of inclusion in which all people, including those with disabilities, have equal access and opportunities. Qualcomm connects students with disabilities of all ages to help prepare them for their careers and partners with local universities for Disability Mentoring Day. They also participate in the annual San Diego career fair for people with disabilities.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years?  
In five years we hope to have more than 25 employees who are legally blind employed in the San Diego area and a much larger community presence. 

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November 21, 2014

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“We continue to find ourselves in a much better position than the year before, as our labor force and employment base continue to grow. Job seekers are not only finding opportunities, but in industries that pay well.”
Phil Blair, President and CEO
Manpower San Diego

This post is part of an ongoing monthly series dedicated to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) monthly employment release and is brought to you by Manpower. Click images to enlarge in a new tab/window.


The California Employment Development Department (EDD) released statewide county employment data today for the October 2014 period. At 5.8 percent, San Diego County’s unemployment rate dropped 0.1 points from September to October, and fell by 1.6 points from this time last year. The unemployment rate in the region remained 1.2 points below California’s 7.0 percent rate and tracked just above the U.S. average of 5.5 percent.

While a 0.1 point decrease may not seem particularly outstanding, the unemployment rate continued its descent while the labor force added 14,900 job-seekers this month. Unemployment claims remained flat, meaning there was one job for every one person who re-entered the labor force. This is a great sign moving forward, since it shows that workers are encouraged and finding jobs.

[Unemployment Chart]

When looking at employment changes, we see a mix of private and public sector growth, the latter due mostly to the return of public school employees. From September to October, the region’s total employment grew by 12,500 jobs, with the private sector accounting for 5,700 jobs.

Monthly private sector gains were partially offset by the continued seasonal decline of accommodation, recreation and food service workers that support our visitor and convention economy. These changes happen every year, as the summer travel season winds down. Much of this employment is made up for with seasonal gains in the retail trade sector, as businesses begin serving back-to-school and holiday shoppers.

[Tourism Chart]

Perhaps more importantly, San Diego’s total and private employment growth continued to outpace the U.S. average. Since October 2013, San Diego’s employment grew by 2.6 percent compared to 2.0 percent nationally. Likewise, the region’s private sector grew by 3.0 percent compared to 2.3 percent nationally.

Most of the private growth from September to October came from a handful of industries. Health care, education, retail trade and administrative services alone added more jobs than the net private sector, meaning the 7,300 jobs added in those industries were offset by losses elsewhere in the private sector, mostly in tourism-related industries.

[Growth Chart]

San Diego’s construction and manufacturing industries had a slow month, but that is typical for this period. These industries are still producing high year-over-year employment gains. Construction and manufacturing added a combined 8,000 jobs since October 2013, and both are growing well above the private sector average.

Innovation sectors continued to show annual job growth. Ship and boat building grew by more than 11 percent and is a critical component of our maritime cluster. The professional, scientific and technical services sector grew by 5.0 percent and represents many of our innovation employers. More specifically, scientific research and development services, which represents many cleantech and life science companies, grew by 4.2 percent since last October.


The numbers from October’s report are promising. We don’t entirely know the deeper causes behind the labor force and unemployment numbers, so optimism should be tempered in that regard. However, San Diego continues to experience above average annual job growth driven by its core industries like health care, advanced manufacturing and science-related services, which is clearly something to remain optimistic about.

Note: Our Economic Indicators Dashboard will show how our unemployment rate compares to other US metros and the US total rate when that information is released in the coming weeks.

November 18, 2014

SeaWorld San Diego

People across the globe – and in San Diego - know SeaWorld.  But what many people don’t know is their deep commitment to the communities they serve. In addition to hosting EDC’s Annual Dinner last year, SeaWorld San Diego is involved in many programs that bolster our economy. Through various community initiatives, they have demonstrated their commitment to putting youth to work and conserving many of the region’s resources.

We sat down with John Reilly, park president at SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica Chula Vista, to learn more about the company’s broad reach.

1) Tell us about SeaWorld San Diego
Most San Diegans have heard of SeaWorld. Animals, shows, rides, Shamu —that’s all true, but most people don’t know how deeply SeaWorld affects the lives of park visitors. Jody Westberg visited the park as a youngster and dreamed of working with marine life. Today she heads SeaWorld’s animal rescue program, dedicating her life to giving ill and injured animals a second chance. Jenna Golden visited SeaWorld as a student enrolled in one of our camps. During college Jenna returned to the park as an Educator, and she now teaches youngsters about conservation and how their actions affect the world’s oceans.  Kristi Burtis grew up in San Diego and enjoyed numerous Shamu shows as a child. Today she trains the park’s killer whales and shares the special bond she has with the animals with millions of visitors.  So what does SeaWorld do?  We entertain, educate, conserve and connect people with the natural world we share.  

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?
Why Sea World Chose San Diego SeaWorld has the good fortune of being located on beautiful Mission Bay. This awe inspiring location, expansive waterfront and adjacent coastal areas allow the park’s habitats and educational programs to impact the local community. The animal rescue program has tremendous access to local beaches for rescues and adjacent waterways to return healthy animals back to the wild. And, San Diego’s perfect weather, dining, shopping, beaches and world-class zoo make it a perfect place for tourists. Visitors from around the globe chose to holiday in San Diego. Few cities in America offer tourists such a vast array of activities and locales.   

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, an innovative, independent, non-profit organization seeking real life solutions to sea life problems, recently launched two projects that are sure to impact global initiatives. On the research front, Hubbs is documenting the influence of infectious and non-infectious diseases on free-ranging animals, including zoonotic diseases (those transmissible from animals to humans). Marine mammals may play a role similar to pigs as hosts for influenza viruses and future studies are aimed at better understanding these relationships. This research has the potential to impact future medical advances and solutions. On another front, Hubbs has embarked on an ambitious fish farming program. The United States is the third-largest consumer of seafood in the world, but we only produce about nine percent of it domestically.  Hubbs is proposing a creative solution that provides an alternative source of protein and a new paradigm in the seafood business. The project, which will start by raising about 1,000 tons of California yellowtail, could serve as a model for environmentally sustainable offshore aquaculture.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego? 
John Reilly speaks at SeaWorld's 50th Anniversary Celebration in March This year SeaWorld celebrated its 50th anniversary and we could not be more excited about the park’s future. A few months ago we announced the Blue World project. Blue World includes a first-of-its-kind killer whale environment, an Independent Advisory Panel that will focus on creating something innovative that maximizes the health and wellbeing of the animals, $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research and a multi-million dollar partnership focused on ocean health. The Blue World habitat will build on SeaWorld’s legacy of providing state-of-the art homes for its animals, and will offer park guests unique and inspiring killer whale encounters for generations to come. This new environment will have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, a maximum depth of 50 feet, surface area of nearly 1.5 acres and views exceeding 40 feet in height providing guests with the world’s largest underwater viewing experience of killer whales. This tremendous new environment will enhance the educational experience for guests, foster deeper knowledge of killer whales and their ocean environment and inspire them to celebrate and conserve the natural world. Blue World will open summer, 2018 and we know San Diegans are going to be awestruck at the incredible vista and one-of-a-kind opportunity to see and learn about killer whales.


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November 14, 2014


As part of San Diego Regional EDC’s work to increase the region’s global competitiveness, a delegation of San Diegans will head to Munich, Germany next week to explore innovation strategies to strengthen advanced manufacturing. Representing a mix of academia, industry, and business organizations, the delegation will tour some of Munich’s most innovative companies, including BMW and Siemens, and meet with German leaders including the Honorable Dieter Reiter, Mayor of Munich.

Germany – where manufacturing represents nearly twice the share of employment as in the United States – offers an illustrative model for industry growth and workforce development. Its manufacturing firms rely on a robust dual model of vocational education and on-the-job training to sustain a highly-trained workforce and powerful public-private collaborations to support continuous innovation.

San Diego – much like Munich – has the talent, innovation and vision to compete and lead in the global marketplace,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC, one of the delegates on the trip. “Both San Diego and Munich have harnessed the power of public/private collaboration to fuel economic growth. Our trip to Munich will help us advance our local innovation economy.

Cafferty will be joined by Monique Rodriguez, director of government affairs, Qualcomm, Inc.; Ian Wendlandt, chief of staff, Stone Brewing Company; and Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of extension at UC San Diego.

In addition to stops at BMW and Siemens, the agenda also includes tours at small and medium-sized manufacturers. Delegates will also engage in panel discussions centered around manufacturing and innovation featuring the Hon. John Emerson, U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Bruce Katz, co-director of the Global Cities Initiative among others. Representatives from Chicago, Louisville-Lexington, Nashville, Phoenix and Portland will also be joining the trip.

The City of Munich plays an important role in San Diego’s global competitiveness. Munich is the region’s sixth largest source of foreign investment; companies with Munich-based operations employ 1,222 people in San Diego. From an industry standpoint, Munich and San Diego excel in cleantech, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, information and communication technologies and other innovative fields.

The trip is part of San Diego’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint effort between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that aims to help cities and metropolitans enhance their global competitiveness. San Diego joined GCI in 2012.

JPMorgan Chase has a longstanding commitment to helping cities thrive,” said Peter Kaldes, head of the Global Cities Initiative at JPMorgan Chase, who will be joining the trip. “We are thrilled to bring together U.S. and German city leaders who we hope will forge new economic bonds and, in the process, help their cities grow.”

In April 2014, as part of the GCI, San Diego was one of six U.S. cities selected to participate in a pilot program to develop a foreign direct investment (FDI) plan. A jobs generator, foreign-owned companies employ nearly 50,000 workers in San Diego, paying above average U.S. wages.                                                                                

In early 2015, the GCI will convene in San Diego to launch a comprehensive global trade and investment plan. 

November 11, 2014

The Clay Company

Meet the Clay Company – one of EDC’s newest investors. As the strategic extension of some of San Diego’s most dynamic companies and ventures, they have a pulse on the innovation that happens right in our backyard. Their clientele are indicative of San Diego as a whole: companies at the cross section of innovation and lifestyle.

This week, we got the opportunity to speak with the Clay Co.’s Stephanie Saathoff, president, and Maddy Kilkenny, vice president, to learn more about how they view the region.   

1) Tell us about the Clay Company.

We are lobbyists, and we’re proud of that.  Our success truly is a combination of understanding what a realistic victory is for our clients, then working with elected officials, staff, the community and stakeholders, to bridge those interests and accomplish practical results that ultimately make San Diego County a better place to live, work, and invest.

On any given day we might be touring the construction at the Cross Border Xpress in Otay Mesa, cruising around in a Car2go, or having lunch by the Koi pond at the Golden Door.  Of course, we really do our best work over burritos in Old Town - unless it’s March Madness or the World Cup.  No one works then.

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?

Why the Clay Co chose SD

San Diego is home, and if that isn’t an advantage over everyone else in the country, then we don’t know what is.  It’s where we both grew up and where we’re raising our kids.  Our hometown is more than just the weather.  We have a thriving economy – an educated, diverse, innovative talent force in a bi-national region of nearly six million people.  We have thriving major universities that produce incredible talent both on and off the court.  And, we are lucky to share a border with another country which exposes us every day to a rich cultural diversity that expands our region’s opportunities and horizons. 

San Diego has nationally recognized non-profits, award winning biotech companies, and acclaimed researchers that are creating Ebola vaccines and curing diseases.  We are home to Donut Bar, Roberto’s Taco Shops, and Stone Brewery.  “Advantage” is our middle name.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

211 San Diego is a shining example of San Diego’s leadership in combining technology, innovation, customer service, non-profit sector and disaster response.  Our local 211 is the national model, and peers around the country look to San Diego’s information and referral service to help them ramp up service, professionalism and financial stability.  When our community is looking for reliable and timely information during a critical disaster, and every day, 24/7, a live voice and solid information make a huge difference. 

4) What do you anticipate for San Diego in five years?

By 2019, San Diego will realize that we no longer need to justify being in the same conversation with great cities like Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and New York, but that it’s actually the other way around.  And we’ll stop saying that San Diego is the “biggest small town in America”.  We will also be able to boast about being home to the person that found a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Our Investor Spotlight series takes a closer look at the companies, organizations and institutions that underwrite EDC’s economic development efforts. Learn more…


November 7, 2014

Mayor Faulconer and TSRI Acting President & CEO James Paulson

With more than 80 research institutes throughout the region, San Diego is a breeding ground for innovative companies and institutes that solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.  Perhaps no local institution has captured the region’s innovative spirit more than The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

 They are on the forefront of controlling a global epidemic. Currently, TSRI Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire is advancing new Ebola therapies and has already contributed to the development of ZMapp, the Ebola therapy from San Diego-based Mapp Pharmaceuticals, given to the first two U.S. missionaries who survived infection.  Dr. Saphire has launched a crowdfunding campaign to find new therapies for the viral disease. TSRI Professor Dennis Burton and his colleagues are also taking a global leadership role in the development of a vaccine to combat HIV/AIDS, focusing on understanding rare antibodies that are effective in neutralizing the virus.

As part of his commitment to raising global awareness of the region’s innovation economy, City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has partnered with EDC to tour some of San Diego’s most cutting-edge businesses and institutes, including TSRI last Friday.  The Mayor also visited General Dynamics NASSCO and SPAWAR earlier this year.

As of Tuesday, Dr. Saphire’s crowdfunding campaign has exceeded its $100,000 goal, meaning more innovation will take place right here, in San Diego.  

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November 5, 2014


San Diego’s aerospace and defense industries play a critical role in our regional economy.  To further support these key industries, San Diego Regional EDC joined in partnership with 86 dedicated organizations to form the AMP SoCal Coalition to compete for the new federal designation known as the Investment in Manufacturing Community Partnership (IMCP). The AMP SoCal coalition, which stretches from San Diego through Ventura County, was one of only 12 regions across the United States that received this new special grant status from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The IMCP designation allows 11 federal agencies with $1.3 billion in economic development funds to use the designees’ plans to make targeted investments in demonstrably strong public-private partnerships to strengthen regional manufacturing. Essentially, this opens up AMP SoCal and the 11 other IMCP designees to vie for a piece of this $1.3 billion funding.

To ensure the AMP SoCal Coalition puts its best foot forward, San Diego Regional EDC, along with East County EDC President Jo Marie Diamond and other members of AMP SoCal Coalition, participated in a two day conference in Washington D.C. last week. This conference was designed to provide best practices insights for regions that won IMCP designations, while giving attendees direct access to the federal agencies participating in the program including the Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and Department of Transportation.

In December, San Diego will be hosting AMP SoCal’s Executive Board meeting to review the IMCP conference and continue to identify regional opportunities to leverage the IMCP status to compete for locally impactful grants.

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November 4, 2014

RA Capital Advisors

San Diego builds products and innovations that bring value to the rest of the world. However, San Diego’s story is a bit different from other regions across the country. Whereas many regions rely on a few large companies for the majority of their economic growth, San Diego’s story is one of building innovative, highly-valued companies from the ground up.

Companies like RA Capital Advisors get that. Having served the San Diego business community for more than 25 years, they have worked with clients across many of San Diego’s high-growth industries, including defense, energy, and manufacturing.

This week, we sat down with RA Capital Advisors' Joel Reed to hear more about the competitive advantages of doing business in the region.

1.  Tell us about RA Capital Advisors
RA Capital is a boutique investment bank providing financial advisory services to businesses both domestically and internationally.  We focus on mergers, acquisitions dispositions and private financings, and have completed over $60 billion in transactions since founding our business in the San Diego area over 25 years ago. 

RA Capital has handled many large and high profile transactions, including helping our clients:  use innovative technology to create substantial energy savings for commercial aircraft, combine their businesses into one of America's premier defense technology companies, finance construction of the largest fleet of ocean-going container ships, and realize many other entrepreneurial dreams. We bring that same experience to helping small and middle market business owners successfully build their companies, and realize their value when the time is right.

2.  What are some advantages to doing business in SD?
Why RA Capital Chose SDSan Diego is a vibrant center for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.  Being in San Diego allows you to see great companies grow from the ground up.  We have enjoyed working with companies as they grow new technologies or business ideas into successful companies like Sirius XM Radio, Sandel Avionics and The Titan Corporation. Many of our diverse clients have focused on specialized manufacturing, national security, aerospace, energy, and healthcare.  San Diego offers these employers the opportunity to create challenging and rewarding jobs in a city with an outstanding quality of life, that is a preferred destination for many professionals and technologies.  As companies such as Qualcomm, SAIC, and others have grown, they have generated many new businesses, reinvigorating the community.  Facing the Pacific makes San Diego a great fit with our affiliate partners' offices in India and Malaysia, and local high tech companies often find our European affiliate offices to be a source of beneficial connections.

3.  San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
Manufacturing and innovation are essential to the success of our community and our economy.  D&K Engineering, located in Rancho Bernardo, is a very exciting example.  D&K is a global product realization company specializing in the design, engineering and manufacturing of complex electromechanical products and equipment.  Through innovation, collaboration and process discipline, D&K partners with organizations to create and build innovative products while reducing cost, accelerating time to market and ensuring product quality. As D&K puts it: they bridge the gap between concept and reality. 

4.   What do we anticipate for San Diego and RA Capital in five years?
San Diego and its regional partners will emerge as a premier global city, exporting and exchanging products, technology and talent with its Asian neighbors and the rest of the world. Continuing innovations in technologies will require building upon our world class institutions of higher learning and expanding our highly skilled workforce. San Diego will build intelligent infrastructure to support this growth, while maintaining the unique beauty of our surrounding area and offering a lifestyle that attracts the active, intellectually curious individuals who create innovation. RA Capital will grow locally, while continuing to expand its global capabilities and be part of supporting this regional growth. We will help San Diego companies find the capital they need to grow, acquire the companies that complement their businesses and extend their reach around the globe. And, as we have always done, we will use our global experience and personal commitment as trusted advisors, to create value for clients, their owners, their employees and the San Diego community.

RA Capital Advisors LLC is a Member of FINRA and SIPC.

November 3, 2014

Earlier this month, EDC released its Manpower Monthly Employment Report. Since then, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released September employment data on all U.S. metros, which allows us to analyze some key indicators across geographies. Click on images to enlarge in a new window/tab.


  • At 5.9 percent, San Diego’s unemployment rate ranked 16th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • From September 2013 to September 2014, San Diego's unemployment rate fell by -1.4 percentage points, which ranked 8th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • Since the end of the recession (June 2009), San Diego's unemployment rate has fallen by 4.1 percentage points, which is greater than the U.S. average.
  • San Diego's employment grew by more than 2.5 percent from September 2013 to September 2014, which ranked 9th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • From September 2013 to September 2014, San Diego's employment in professional, scientific and technical services (PST) grew by 7.2 percent, the 2nd fastest growth among major U.S. metros.
  • Manufacturing in San Diego grew more than 2.6 percent from the previous year, which is faster than both the overall employment growth and the U.S. manufacturing average.

[Unemployment Chart]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released employment data for the September 2014 period for all U.S. metro areas. At 5.9 percent, San Diego County’s unemployment rate fell by 1.4 points from this time last year. San Diego's rate ranked 16th among major U.S. metros and was slightly above the U.S. overall rate of 5.7 percent. However, San Diego's rate fell faster than most. San Diego's percentage point change from September 2013 to September 2014 ranked 8th among major U.S. metros. While the unemployment rate in San Diego was higher than some of the region's key peer metros, it still fared better than other California metros like Los Angeles and Riverside, and fell roughly in the middle of the 25 most populous U.S. metros.

[Employment Chart]

When looking at employment growth, San Diego fared better than most. From September 2013 to September 2014, the region's employment grew by more than 2.5 percent, which ranked 9th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros. The U.S. average growth rate was less than 2 percent, and only two U.S. metros, Houston and Dallas, grew by more than 3 percent.

[PST Chart]

While San Diego's overall growth is very positive, we saw more explosive growth in one of the region's most important sectors. Professional, scientific and technical services (PST) is a sector of the economy very heavily associated with the region's innovation clusters. Much of the companies and employment in clusters like biotechnology, biomedical products, cleantech and information technology fall within the PST sector. From September 2013 to September 2014, employment in the region's PST sector grew by 7.2 percent, more than double the U.S. average of 3.2 percent. San Diego ranked second among the 25 most populous U.S. metros in this measure, which is a positive sign for the region's key traded clusters.

[MFG Chart]

Manufacturing is another key industry for growth in the region, not only because manufacturing jobs are accessible and pay well, but also because certain manufacturing subsectors are critical to the region's innovation clusters. From September 2013 to September 2014, manufacturing employment grew by 2.6 percent, which was faster than the region's overall growth rate. San Diego's manufacturing employment grew at twice the rate of the U.S., and recorded the 9th highest growth rate among major U.S. metros. 

As we discussed in the Manpower Monthly Employment Report earlier this month, San Diego's economy is experiencing strong positive employment growth. That point is even more apparent now that we can observe that growth in the context of San Diego's peers. While the unemployment rate isn't as comparatively low as we would like to have seen, Summer-to-Fall seasonal effects are often felt more strongly in San Diego, given the region's large tourism industry. We've generally seen the unemployment rate track at or below the U.S. average, and don't expect that to change much in the near future.

Thank you to Manpower-SD for their ongoing support of EDC's employment trends research.