Economy in crisis: Closer look at August employment report reveals troubling trend

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A deep dive into San Diego’s employment report for August reveals a troubling trend.
  • Thousands of workers have fled the labor force since February, which has artificially lowered the unemployment rate and puts San Diego’s economy at risk.

THE SNAG

We’re taking a deeper dive into San Diego’s employment report for August. The region added 20,500 payroll jobs last month as businesses forced to close again in July were allowed to reopen with restrictions in August. Additionally, the unemployment rate fell 2.5 percentage points from 12.4 percent in July to 9.9 percent, which is more than three times the largest downward move in the rate observed before the pandemic. However, a closer look at the record drop in unemployment last month reveals a troubling trend.

In order to be counted as unemployed in the Labor Department’s employment report, workers must still be in the labor force, which is defined as actively seeking employment over the four weeks prior to the survey. This means that the unemployment rate can theoretically drop in a given survey month, even if there were no job gains, if enough workers leave the job market.

Some 16,400 workers exited the labor force in August, the largest single-month exodus in more than six years. Without last month’s contraction in the labor force, the unemployment rate would have stood at 10.8 percent. Widening the temporal aperture a bit, San Diego’s labor force has withered by 36,200 workers since February before the COVID downturn took hold. If those workers had not fled the workforce, August’s unemployment rate would have stood at an even more elevated 11.9 percent in August, two full percentage points above the officially reported 9.9 percent, and would have peaked at 17.6 percent in May, 2.4 percentage points higher than the officially reported rate of 15.2 percent that month.

WHY IT MATTERS

The above creates at least two issues that can have tangible effects on the real economy that span well beyond any technical foibles underpinning the calculation of the unemployment rate:

  1. Workers who drop out of the labor force cannot receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The average weekly UI payout in California is $305.82. Using that figure as a guidepost (UI payout data aren’t readily available at the metro or county levels), the loss in household income conservatively amounts to roughly $20 million dollars each month—or almost a quarter billion dollars per year. And that’s just accounting for the 16,000 or so workers who left in August. Including the roughly 20,000 other discouraged workers who have left since February, that $240 million balloons to nearly $600 million that is no longer reaching households’ wallets—and, therefore, local businesses—in a given year.
  1. Marginally attached workers are significantly less likely to rejoin the labor force as time wears on. The longer that workers remain on the sidelines, the more effectively they can adjust household spending habits and re-examine the trade-offs between working and being home with family. On average, it takes higher pay to entice workers to rejoin the labor force than to keep them in the labor force to begin with.

A significant rise in worker pay sufficient to draw re-entrants back to the job market will hinge on a dramatically lower unemployment rate, which is well off in the future, perhaps as late as 2022. Given that, there’s a good chance that many of those who’ve already left the job force will not return. It will also give many more the opportunity to exit if they are not rehired soon.

Ultimately, this translates to San Diego’s economy relying on fewer workers to drive growth and maintain economic stability. The economic literature on this topic suggests that future economic downturns could become more frequent and deeper if growth and stability rest on a smaller number of employees. That’s why we need to get this recovery right – learn more here.

That’s why a path forward for discouraged workers that includes upskilling and reskilling is so necessary. The prospect of a more stable and lucrative career would likely draw many people who have left over the past six months back to the labor force. This could put money back into people’s pockets well ahead of late next year or early 2022 and could help to mitigate the possibility of any longer term damage to San Diego’s economy.

EDC’s Advancing San Diego initiative is exploring a viable path forward. With better connectivity to academia, business leaders can begin to communicate the specific skills required to successfully perform jobs in any number of high-demand positions, providing the roadmap for colleges and universities to enhance their curricula perhaps by building out “micro-credential” certificates or academic programs designed to prepare workers in a matter of weeks—rather than years—to take on those jobs.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: September 2020

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Economic Pulse covers August 2020 and reflects some effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. Check out EDC’s research bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Unemployment drops sharply to 9.9 percent; remains highest in the unincorporated parts of the County.
  1. Employment up in nearly all industries, up 20,500 jobs month over month.
  1. Low-wage job losses are nearly 30 times greater than high-wage job losses.

Unemployment Drops

The region’s unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in August down from a revised 12.4 percent in July 2020, and far above the year-ago estimate of 3.4 percent. Unemployment declined monthly as the region continues to reopen and jobs recover. San Diego’s unemployment rate remains lower than the state unemployment rate of 11.6 percent, but higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.5 percent.

Unemployment was highest in the unincorporated areas of Bostonia (17.9%), Bonita (14.7%), Spring Valley (13.6%), and in the cities of National City (13.7%) and El Cajon (13.6%), and lowest in the cities of Solana Beach (5.5%), Poway (6.8%), Coronado (6.8%), Del Mar (7.3%), and Encinitas (7.3%). Wealthier areas are enjoying lower rates of unemployment, while neighborhoods with a larger share of lower-paid workers suffer from higher rates of unemployment – elaborated on below.

Employment Bounces Back

Total nonfarm employment increased in August, up 20,500 jobs. This follows similar patterns to the state and national data. In California, nonfarm employment increased by 140,400 in August from the month prior, while payroll employment increased by 1.4 million in the U.S. during the same time period.

However, compared to a year ago, San Diego nonfarm employment remains down 135,800 jobs or 9 percent. In California, total nonfarm employment is down 1.6 million jobs, or 8 percent compared to a year ago, while the U.S. is down nearly 13 million jobs, or 8.8 percent.

Sector Employment Gradually Returning

Government accounted for the largest monthly gains, adding 6,800 jobs in August, primarily concentrated in local government education (up 4,300 jobs) after last month’s large decline. Compared to a year ago, local government education is still down 11,400 jobs.

Professional and business services followed with an increase of 5,300 jobs. Most of those job gains were in the administration and support services sector, which added 3,100 jobs to the region.

Construction employment increased this month, adding 3,100 jobs.

Trade, transportation, and utilities employment increased this month, adding 2,600 jobs. This was driven primarily by retail, which added 2,300 jobs.

Leisure and hospitality employment as a whole declined by 400 jobs in August. Encouragingly, however, restaurants added 700 jobs last month amid measured reopenings across the region.

Recovery Must Focus on Low-Wage Workers

Despite the gains observed in August, industry employment remains well below levels a year ago. The largest decline in employment has been in leisure and hospitality, which is down 60,100 jobs (shown in the chart above), or 29 percent since August 2019. Most of those leisure and hospitality job losses are concentrated in accommodation and food services, with a loss of 43,900 jobs. Trade, transportation, and utilities are down 17,100 jobs, with 11,700 of those jobs in retail. Government is down 15,400 jobs annually, with 14,000 local government jobs lost.

The lowest wages in San Diego County are concentrated in the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19: accommodation and food services, retail trade, arts, entertainment, and recreation, and educational services. Average wages for accommodation and food services are $30,560, retail trade are $41,785, arts, entertainment, and recreation are $45,040, and educational services are $49,826. Each sector hit hardest by COVID19 falls below the median regional wage of $73,596.

Layoffs in low-wage sectors have occurred at a rate much higher than those in high-wage sectors. According to Opportunity Insights, low wage jobs are down 31.8 percent. Meanwhile, high wage jobs are down only 1.8 percent.

Consumer spending has also suffered as wages continue to drop, especially for lower-wage employees. While low-wage workers hold less spending power, they spend more of their paychecks directly, rather than investments or savings. We can expect to see a larger proportion of spending come back into the economy as lower-paid employees get their jobs back, and ultimately advance to better paying positions over time.

Every previous economic recovery has increased systemic poverty and widened inequality. Too often in a rush to restore normalcy, entire segments of our community have been left further behind. The stakes could not be higher that we get this recovery right. We must rebuild an economy that is more resilient than before, so prosperity reaches more people. Read more about EDC’s recovery framework.

 

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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Economy in crisis: Local housing market stays hot, unaffordable despite COVID

THE TAKEAWAYS…

  • House prices continued to climb locally, despite record job losses from COVID
  • Lower mortgage rates, strong population growth, the addition of high-earning newcomers to the region, and a razor-thin inventory of available houses have fueled house price growth
  • The evidence suggests that thousands of people are being priced out of San Diego each year, which could cause talent bottlenecks for local employers and drive labor costs higher
  • Building new housing will be crucial to making San Diego a more affordable place for people to live in the future

HOUSING STILL ON A TEAR

COVID-19 has done little, if anything, to cool down San Diego’s hot housing market. Depending on the source, the median home price in the region was up in July of this year anywhere from roughly 5% to more than 10% from a year prior. Meanwhile, rents are essentially flat to just slightly down over the past year even as personal income cratered an estimated 10.5% from February to April. Earnings have crawled back as job gains resumed in the summer months but still remain well below pre-COVID levels.

WHY HOUSING HASN’T FALTERED

So, how can the local housing market possibly support climbing prices and some of the highest rents in the country amid record unemployment? A combination of factors are at play, many of which are specific to San Diego.

First, falling mortgage rates lured more homebuyers into the market in the summer following an initial decline in April and May as the COVID outbreak worsened. Existing-home sales rebounded sharply in June and were up more than 10% from a year prior by July. Additional buyer interest drove prices higher.

Second, the pandemic disproportionately hurt workers in lower-paying fields while many workers in higher-paying industries shifted to remote work, allowing landlords and home sellers to charge prices at or near (or higher) than before the outbreak, especially for upper-tier properties.

Finally, San Diego boasts a national and international allure for high earners for its climate, lifestyle, and concentration of tech-related innovation jobs. More people have moved out of San Diego than moved here in recent years, but those moving in to the region tend to make about four times as much than those moving out, allowing home sellers and renters to keep prices elevated.

Therein lies the problem. Reframing the point above, it appears that residents are being forced out because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore, while the people moving in have secured employment in high-paying fields.

It’s important to note that net migration only measures people moving across county lines and doesn’t include organic population growth as people start families, people live to be older, etc. Overall, San Diego’s total population grew by more than 235,000 residents, or 7.6%, between 2010 and 2019—well above the 6.1% growth experienced nationwide. Housing supply has failed to keep up, and the result has been a steady climb in already-high housing prices locally.

THE REPERCUSSIONS

Housing affordability—measured as the ratio between earnings and median house prices—fell for all workers between February and July. This is in spite of the fact that higher-paid workers were, in most cases, able to continue working through the pandemic. However, housing affordability in San Diego is still farther from reach for lower-paid workers, underscoring the affordability issue faced for employees in fields outside of San Diego’s innovation economy, which includes tech and life sciences. Earnings for workers making less than the median salary of $73,596 per year dropped an estimated 19.5%, compared with a relatively less severe 7.3% decline for workers making above the median.

This creates an issue, since it limits the number of workers available in the region for fields outside of white-collar professions and may potentially create a talent bottleneck that could ultimately force labor costs higher. This is especially important for businesses operating within the tourism sector, including restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, and retail shops already operating on tight margins that could have more difficulty absorbing rising labor costs than firms in other industries with greater pricing power.

Above-average population growth, above-average earnings for many employees, and a constricted housing inventory have created a perfect storm of unaffordable housing in San Diego. Expanding the supply of housing, as well as cultivating additional mass transit options—another topic in and of itself—will therefore be crucial to helping balance the market and ensuring San Diego retains its diverse talent pool.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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Economy in crisis: SD tourism holds up, but the recovery remains uneven

THE KEY TAKEAWAYS…

  • San Diego’s accommodation sector is performing well as summer draws to a close.
  • Hotels have been slow to rehire workers, but recent metrics suggest that a strong spate of hiring is in the cards.
  • The recovery has been uneven, but a number of industries have recouped most of the jobs lost to COVID-19.
  • A number of industries still have a long way to go, and many may never recover all of the jobs lost from COVID as businesses shift their business models.

SAN DIEGO TOURISM ON THE UPSWING

San Diego’s accommodation sector is holding its own despite another wave of COVID-related closures amid a spike in cases. Hotels in particular are closing out the summer on a high note, with the supply of rooms within striking distance of pre-COVID levels as of mid-August. The average daily rate (ADR) for rooms is climbing back somewhat more slowly but, at about $150 per night, is up some 67.4% from COVID lows in early May.

It took about a month, but as the COVID downturn intensified, accommodation employment tracked changes in room supply and average daily rates nearly one-for-one. That relationship would have suggested that accommodation employment should have grown by about 3,500 positions in July. Instead, employers only added back just 100 jobs, signaling caution on the part of hotels as the economy slowly climbs out of the crater left by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The caution within the industry makes sense. Laying off workers is painful for employers and employees alike, which is a likely reason why hotel employment didn’t falter until April and May, even though the impacts of COVID were felt as early as March. Similarly, instead of bringing workers back on just to have to let them go again in the event of another flare-up of the virus accompanied by additional closures, hotel managers may be taking a wait-and-see approach to rehiring. Nonetheless, recent industry performance suggests that hotels should be bringing about 8,000 to 8,500 workers back on to accommodate the increase in room supply and rates over the past couple of months once they feel it’s safe to do so.

As of the July employment report, accommodation employment rested at 17,800, up 43.4% from May’s low of 12,400 but still 43.3% below its pre-COVID peak of 31,400 in February. Given that expected hotel revenues—measured by the room supply multiplied by average daily rates—are just 16.5% below pre-COVID levels, employment should quickly follow. An increase of 8,000-plus employees would bring hotel employment more in line with expected foot traffic at hotels and would follow the trend seen so far during the downturn.

SAN DIEGO FACES AN UNEVEN RECOVERY

To say that the COVID downturn and subsequent recovery have been uneven across industries would be an understatement. The hotel industry’s improvement is encouraging, and a number of industries are at or near their pre-COVID employment levels, including: Heavy and civil engineering construction; building equipment contractors; computer and electronic product manufacturing; aerospace manufacturing; grocers; securities and commodities investment; and scientific research and development services.

However, total nonfarm employment in San Diego is still down 10.5% from February due in large part to slower rehiring in industries like restaurants and bars; personal services, such as dry cleaners and other laundry services as people work from home; and local government education, likely reflecting school jobs aside from teachers—like administrators, janitors, etc.—as the county waits to resume in-person teaching.

Unfortunately, many of these jobs will be slow to come back due to their face-to-face nature. What’s worse, many of those positions may not return at all. Even with the advent of a safe and effective vaccine, many businesses have changed their fundamental business models and have adopted new operational norms—like Twitter, who made working remote a permanent option for employees. As a result, the same positions required for those companies before the COVID outbreak may no longer be necessary to operate in the post-COVID world.

The impact of COVID has not only affected the lowest-paid among us in San Diego, but it has hurt communities of color the worst. Now, more than ever, targeted and effective solutions are needed to help these communities not just recover but thrive in the future. Reskilling and training of the workforce and offering equal access to capital for minority-owned businesses are not just ethical and moral necessities—they are economic ones, too. Because, we all do better when everyone is doing better; and a more resilient San Diego economy will help us all in the long-run.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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A legacy of discrimination: Redlining in San Diego

Economic inequality is a pre-existing condition. And just like in the rest of the country, a history of housing discrimination and redlining policies has burdened San Diego with decades of mounting inequities that can still be seen and felt more than 80 years later.

Less than 20 miles apart, the 1938 redlining policy presented two vastly different lending practices that have shaped our socioeconomic reality decades later.

  • La Jolla: “Residents embrace nearly all types of professions and are all white. No threat of foreign infiltration. Homes are well maintained.”
  • Logan Heights: “Racial concentration of colored fraternity. Homes show only slight degree of pride of ownership and are on the average negligently maintained.”

Scroll over the map below to visualize how redlining policies set in 1938 still impact where people live and what they earn, today.

 

Today, San Diego is a majority-minority region, meaning no single race or ethnic group makes up more than 50% of the total population. It is a much larger, smarter, and more diverse region than it was 80 or 90 years ago, but we are still segregated. That is the legacy of deliberate investment in some parts of our county, and deliberate disinvestment in others. So, as we talk about getting this economic recovery right, we must address the ways in which communities of color and small businesses are most impacted.  It’s no coincidence the above map mirrors that of COVID-19 impacts.

Learn more about San Diego’s economic recovery

San Diego’s Economic Pulse: August 2020

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Economic Pulse covers July 2020 and reflects some effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. Check out EDC’s research bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Unemployment Slightly Lower

The region’s unemployment rate was 12.3 percent in July down from a revised 13.8 percent in June 2020, and far above the year-ago estimate of 3.6 percent. Unemployment declined monthly as the region continues to reopen and jobs recover. The region’s unemployment rate remains lower than the state unemployment rate of 13.7 percent, but higher than the national unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.

Unemployment was highest in the unincorporated areas of Bostonia (21.8%), Bonita (18.0%), Spring Valley (16.7%), and in the cities of National City (16.5%) and El Cajon (16.4%). Unemployment was lowest in the cities of Solana Beach (6.9%), Poway (8.6%), Coronado (9.1%), and Del Mar (9.1%). Areas with large Hispanic populations are facing higher rates of unemployment, as Hispanics are disproportionally employed in the most vulnerable occupations.

Employment Continues to Decline

Total nonfarm employment fell in July, down 2,200 jobs. This differs from state and national data. In California, nonfarm employment increased by 15,370 in July from the month prior, while payroll employment increased by 1.8 million in the U.S. during the same time period.

Compared to a year ago, San Diego nonfarm employment remains down 144,400 jobs, or 10.2 percent. In California, total nonfarm employment is down 1.6 million jobs, or 8 percent compared to a year ago, while the U.S. is down nearly 13 million jobs, or 8.8 percent.

Sector Employment Split on Gains

Government accounted for the largest monthly losses, losing 12,800 jobs in July, primarily concentrated in local government education (down 13,200 jobs) and state government education (down 500 jobs). Compared to a year ago, local government education is down 8,300 jobs, and state government education is down 4,900 jobs. Local government education employment is largely women occupied (70 percent). Job losses in local and state government education have the potential to set back women in the workforce, a trend already exasperated by the pandemic according to a United Nations report.

Construction followed with a decline of 1,100 jobs. Construction of buildings declined both monthly and annually, which is especially important as the region continues to grapple with a housing affordability crisis. Without construction jobs, home building stops. Home price growth continues to outpace incomes, as housing production is about half the rate necessary to keep up with job and population growth. Ensuring San Diego is an attractive and affordable place for talent and business is critical to maintaining its regional competitiveness.

Trade, transportation, and utilities employment increased this month, adding 6,100 jobs. This was driven primarily by retail, which added 4,200 jobs. Clothing and clothing accessories stores grew by nearly 13 percent in July. As California clarified social distance retail guidelines, many retail stores were able to reopen, leading to an increase in employment.

The leisure and hospitality industry gained back 100 jobs in July, but remains down 60,800 jobs compared to a year ago. Nearly 40 percent of leisure and hospitality industry employees are Hispanic. These jobs are not likely to return in large numbers while social distancing remains in effect.

A Long Road to Recovery

Industry employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels seen in February 2020. The largest decline in employment has been the leisure and hospitality industry, down 49,500 jobs, or 25 percent. Government employment is down 30,200 jobs, educational and health services is down 20,300 jobs, and trade, transportation, and utilities, which includes retail, has lost 18,000 jobs since February.

While some jobs have been recovered, many will be lost permanently. Creative training programs to get these workers employed in growing occupations will be key to our economic recovery. Furthermore, the pandemic has exacerbated the inequities that have long-plagued the region, particularly our Hispanic population. Developing an economic recovery strategy that promotes inclusive growth is essential to ensuring our future economic competitiveness.

 

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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Economy in crisis: Fresh thinking on career advancement is needed

THE TAKEAWAYS

  • Fresh thinking on career advancement is needed in order to create a more resilient San Diego economy.
  • San Diego’s lowest-paid workers were the first to be let go during the COVID downturn and will likely be the last to be called back to work.
  • Upskilling and reskilling employees in lower-paying sectors like retail and leisure and hospitality will improve living standards and help businesses in other industries find qualified talent without draining the pool of workers for retailers, restaurants, and bars.
  • Colleges and universities will need to rethink curricular requirements in order to adapt to the changing needs of the business community.

San Diego’s economy has emerged from the depths of the COVID downturn, but the road to a full recovery is looking longer (and bumpier) than many expected. A second wave of business shutdowns and restrictions amid a rise in positive cases last month portends a significant weakening in the outlook heading into late summer and fall.

The unexpected and historically severe drag on San Diego’s job market since March underscores the need to build a more resilient workforce that can better weather future downturns. More than half of the 223,700 jobs shed between February and April were in leisure and hospitality and retail alone. These jobs could be slow to come back, since shops, restaurants, bars, and venues won’t be able to operate at full capacity until an effective and safe vaccine has been widely produced and distributed—something that’s not expected until at least early next year.

THE MOST VULNERABLE HAVE BECOME THE MOST VULNERABLE…AGAIN

Other sectors have undoubtedly been rocked by the economic shockwave of the COVID pandemic, but retail and leisure and hospitality workers were especially susceptible, particularly those in accommodation and food services. Not only were they the first to be let go, but many will likely the last to be rehired. What’s worse, San Diego’s accommodation and food service employees made just over $30,000, on average, last year compared to about $74,000 for all workers.

The outsize damage to leisure and retail is not isolated to just the past few months. Both industries have historically been more volatile over the past few decades. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, total nonfarm employment in San Diego fell 8.9%. However, retail employment tumbled 16.2% and leisure and hospitality gave up 14.1%. It stands to reason that a similar dynamic could play out when the next downturn inevitably arrives.

TAPPING INTO NEW TALENT

Tourism, which includes retailers, accommodation, and eating and drinking establishments, is a large and important piece of the economic pie (pun intended) here in San Diego. Luckily, tourism-related industries have a huge supply of readily available workers. Upskilling and reskilling of many of the employees looking to get out of hospitality could expand the base of workers in relatively higher-paying, less volatile occupations without draining the pool of qualified workers for local restaurants, bars, and hotels. This could be extended to retail and other lower-paying sectors and would simultaneously improve living standards while alleviating stress on local employers who can’t find qualified talent in non-tourism fields. It would likely keep a greater number of people employed during future downturns, too.

Looking at job postings data for the region, local employers have had a tough time filling roles in a wide variety of occupations. Software developer and engineering roles are ubiquitous on lists like these, but it extends well beyond the buzzy positions du jour and includes others like marketing managers, sales reps, and truck drivers. The average annual pay for these and other in-demand positions is over $63,000 per year versus $36,720 for jobs where more than enough applicants can apply.

SO, WHAT’S THE CATCH?

As usual, the devil’s in the details. Even after things begin to normalize, walking out on one’s barista job to immediately pursue a post-secondary degree in electrical engineering typically isn’t an option. Consequently, career advancement would have to occur more gradually and require some serious curricular agility from local colleges and universities.

EDC’s Advancing San Diego initiative is exploring a viable path forward. The initiative serves to boost lower-paid employees into more stable, higher paying jobs with greater potential for upward mobility, called “lifeboat jobs.” An example would be someone like a forklift operator at a local factory who could ultimately climb the rungs into Operations Management.

With better connectivity to academia, business leaders can begin to communicate the specific skills required to successfully perform lifeboat jobs in any number of high-demand positions. Then, local colleges and universities could build out “micro-credential” certificates or academic programs designed to prepare workers in a matter of weeks—rather than years—to take on those jobs.

Given the deeply-seeded roots of tradition in academia, this would likely emerge most immediately as a strategy in the universe of Continuing or Extended Studies. However, the swiftly evolving landscape of business in the 21st century seems to suggest that a more targeted and flexible approach to general coursework would provide the best value for students (and parents) and would also be of great service to businesses looking for a reliable pipeline of skilled workers upon graduation.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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Economy in crisis: July jobs report likely to be overhyped

THE TAKEAWAYS

  • The July jobs report is likely to look better than it should because of the timing of data collection by the Labor Department.
  • San Diego’s tourism sector continued to recover through mid-July, before renewed shutdown orders were given, but U.S. air travel remains well below year-ago levels.
  • Any setback from last week’s partial shutdown is unlikely to show up until the August jobs numbers are released.

First, it’s important to note that the May employment report was revised 7,300 lower, making for a net 46,700 positions added in June to May’s pre-revised figure—almost exactly matching our prediction for 45,000 net new positions.

June’s employment report also aligned with expectations; San Diego employers added 54,000 jobs last month. The additional jobs lowered the local unemployment rate from 15.2 percent (revised higher from an initial estimate of 15.0 percent) to 13.9 percent. However, this is still nearly 3 percentage points higher than the national rate of 11.2 percent in June, due in large part to the higher concentration of food services, retail, and tourism in San Diego, which were ravaged by the COVID-19 downturn.

Even though June’s numbers were just released, it’s never too early to look ahead to the July report. With San Diego partially shutting down again last week, conventional wisdom suggests that the July report will show a fresh spate of job losses. However, timing is key. The July employment figures will be estimated using data collected the week of July 12, 2020. Therefore, any layoffs from last week’s move to shut down bars, indoor dining areas, museums, zoos, and hair salons will probably not be picked up in July’s report. In other words, the July employment report will most likely look better on the surface than it would had the data spanned through the end of the month—wrongfully implying that the regional economy fared better than it actually did in July.

TOURISM FORGES AHEAD…

Local tourism has a long road ahead of it before it fully recovers, but hotel occupancy data produced by the San Diego Tourism Authority through July 11, 2020 show that both the demand for and supply of hotel rooms has continued to rise since bottoming in April. Average daily rates for rooms in the region have also continued to increase. We can anticipate changes to accommodation employment given its tight relationship to the room supply and daily rental rates, since hotels need to be sufficiently staffed to manage tourist traffic in any given week.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, San Diego hotels employed 31,400 workers. That number was slashed by more than 60 percent after statewide shutdown orders in March. The industry added back 5,900—or roughly one in three—of the jobs lost to COVID-19 shutdowns in June. And the tight relationship between hotel occupancy, room rates, and employment suggests that accommodation services could be shown in July to have recouped another 2,500 to 3,000 jobs, bringing total industry employment back above 20,000 for the first time since March.

…BUT…

TSA data shows a painfully slow recovery in air travel, with throughput at U.S. airports over the past week down an average of 74 percent from a year ago. Given San Diego’s stature as an international tourism destination, the lack of jet-setter traffic through airports means that San Diego hotels will face an uphill battle to fill open rooms. This underscores the tenuous nature of local tourism’s comeback.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

National employment numbers will shed some more light on what we can expect to see locally in the July jobs report. However, any positive takeaways from that report should be taken with a grain of salt, since the most recent round of local shutdowns will undoubtedly mean that companies have to once again let go of employees. The magnitude of job losses will hinge on the duration of the current shutdown, which is contingent on a number of metrics, including the rate of positive COVID-19 tests across the county, number of community outbreaks in a given week, and local hospital and ICU capacity, just to name a few.

Taken together, July’s employment report is more than likely to present another round of job gains, but August’s report is almost certain to reveal a setback in the recovery—although, how big of a setback won’t be clear for at least another several weeks. Moving forward, job training and retraining services will be increasingly vital to the long-term health of the economy, since temporary layoffs are more likely to become permanent ones in the coming months if businesses remain limited to partial operating capacity.

This is not to say that we advocate reopening at the risk of public healthinstead, we are advocating for a path to opportunity for San Diego’s most vulnerable workers to reduce their reliance on inherently volatile industries and occupations.

 

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: July 2020

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Economic Pulse covers June 2020 and reflects some effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. Check out EDC’s research bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Unemployment Slightly Lower

The region’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent in June down from a revised 15.2 percent in May 2020, and far above the year-ago estimate of 3.3 percent. The region’s unemployment rate remains lower than the state unemployment rate of 15.1 percent, but higher than the national unemployment rate of 11.2 percent during the same time period, respectively. Read more about EDC’s unemployment analysis.

Employment Continues to Recover

Between May 2020 and June 2020, total nonfarm employment in San Diego increased from a revised 1,301,700 to 1,355,700, a gain of 54,000 jobs. EDC’s COVID-19 survey of businesses shows that more than 60 percent of firms surveyed reduced their staff between March and May due to COVID19.The June employment numbers reflect jobs gradually returning to the region. This is consistent with state and national data. In California, nonfarm employment increased by 558,200 in June from the month prior, while payroll employment increased by 4.8 million in the U.S. during the same time period.

Compared to a year ago, San Diego nonfarm employment remains down 153,600 jobs or 10.2 percent. In California, total nonfarm employment is down 1.7 million jobs, or 10 percent compared to a year ago, while the U.S. is down nearly 13 million jobs, or 8.5 percent.

Sector Employment Slowly Returns

The leisure and hospitality industry accounted for the largest monthly gains, adding 34,700 jobs in June, primarily concentrated in food services and drinking places as restaurants reopened. While it is encouraging that the food services and drinking places sector has increased employment the last month, the industry still has 20 percent fewer jobs compared to a year ago. Tourism is still not close to recovered and likely will take much longer, the accommodation industry has 44 percent fewer jobs compared to a year ago.

Trade, transportation, and utilities employment increased this month, adding 9,500 jobs. This was driven primarily by retail, which added 6,800 jobs. Clothing and clothing accessories stores grew by nearly 49 percent in June. This aligns with national retail sales, which jumped 7.5 percent in June. The Census Bureau reported retail sales are 1.1 percent higher than their levels from a year ago, but those gains could be short-lived as infections begin to rise and closures continue.

Construction followed with an additional 4,100 positions, and educational and health services recovered 2,800 jobs lost between April and May. The bulk of job gains in educational and health services came from Ambulatory Health Care Services. The largest monthly employment decline was in government, with a loss of 3,900 jobs, as public finances continue to face revenue challenges.

Looking Ahead

While the employment report reveals solid monthly job gains, San Diego’s economy will likely face more job losses in the coming months. Just last week, the Governor announced more closures to retails and dining in. As industries close again, temporary layoffs are more likely to become permanent and the unemployment rate may rise again. Looking ahead, it is critical that workers have ample access to job training in order accelerate the economy’s recovery.

As educators plan for the upcoming school year, they are faced with unprecedented circumstances. San Diego Unified announced an online only fall learning plan, a first in the region. The lack of on-campus education will not only impact students and children with special needs, but also the working parents that depend on schools and daycare while at work. There are 180,000 households with two working adults and school-aged children. That means there are at least 360,000 workers in our region whose productivity or presence at work is being impacted while the virus remains a threat.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

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Economy in crisis: Another round of uncertainty

The takeaways

  • A solid U.S. jobs report suggests that, in June, San Diego may have recovered as many as 45,000 of the jobs lost to COVID, more than half of which are from leisure/hospitality and retail.
  • The San Diego jobs recovery lags the nation’s somewhat as local businesses reopened later than those in other parts of the country.
  • Persistently high continuing UI claims in California, fresh business closures, and a shift in unemployment from temporary to permanent significantly cloud the near-term outlook.

The Good…

The U.S. job market took another big step forward in June, adding a better than expected 4.8 million payroll jobs. Last month’s report indicates that, in May and June alone, the U.S. recouped roughly 40 percent of the jobs lost to COVID-19. For context, it took the nation 17 months during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 to recover 40 percent of the jobs lost during that downturn. In addition, the unemployment rate slid lower to 11.1 percent from 13.3 percent the month prior (although the topline figure alone is misleading—more to follow on that below).

While San Diego’s job market doesn’t necessarily mirror the nation’s, the U.S. employment report can still provide valuable information on what to expect locally in a given month. Looking at the historical relationship for employment in San Diego and the U.S., it’s possible that San Diego may have added back about 45,000 jobs in June, more than half of which could be attributed to leisure/hospitality and retail. Combined with May’s gain of 18,200 jobs, this would mean that roughly 30 to 35 percent of the jobs lost from COVID will have been recovered. The slower pace of recovery compared with the U.S. as a whole can be partly explained by local retailers and restaurants reopening later here than in some other parts of the country.

If history is a guide, then the U.S. job numbers would imply an additional 18,000 to 20,000 leisure/hospitality positions, which would add up to roughly 20 percent of the jobs lost from February to April. In addition, the national figures imply a local recovery of between 7,000 and 8,000 retail positions, or about one in three jobs lost to COVID.

The addition of 7,000 to 8,000 retail jobs in June is slightly higher than our analysis of employment gains due to a rebound in U.S. retail sales that suggested San Diego retailers would add back closer to 6,000 to 6,500 jobs in June. However, the way by which national retail sales figures are averaged would have meant that the number of recovered local jobs could certainly be higher, making the estimate for 7,000 to 8,000 reclaimed positions not implausible.

…The Bad, and the (potentially) ugly

Unfortunately, other data points and recent events significantly cloud the near-term outlook.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance in California, which are closely correlated to San Diego unemployment, have remained stubbornly high, increasing from an average of 2.83 million in May to 2.89 million in June. On its own, this would suggest a slight increase in the local unemployment rate from 15 percent in May to 15.2 percent in June.

In addition, state, county, and city officials have rolled back reopenings for bars, indoor restaurants, theaters, tasting rooms, and museums until the end of July, which could mean another round of layoffs will show up in the July employment report. The share of people testing positive for COVID-19 has increased from two to three percent for most of May and early June to six to seven percent. Moreover, the number of community outbreaks has reached double-digits in recent weeks, and the county reported more than 1,000 new cases over the Fourth of July weekend alone, prompting the closures.

Finally, despite the drop in the topline U.S. unemployment rate in June, the number of people whose unemployment shifted from temporary to permanent increased by nearly 600,000, bringing the number of permanently laid off workers to a six-year high. If a similar trend takes hold in San Diego, then the jobs recovery could take longer, because permanently laid off workers are more likely to become discouraged, drop out of the labor force, and lose valuable skills, making them significantly less likely to re-enter the job market. As such, it is crucial that these workers have ample access to job training to enhance their skills, keep them engaged, and increase the chances that the coming recovery leads to a more inclusive and resilient San Diego economy going forward.

Taken together, the June employment report—due out July 17—will almost certainly reveal solid monthly job gains. However, other indicators suggest that the labor market is unlikely to enjoy a smooth upward trajectory from here on out. The coming recovery is bound to be rife with bumps, hiccups, twists, and turns this year into next.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

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