San Diego’s Data Bites: April 2022

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers March 2022, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego employers added 8,000 nonfarm payroll positions between February and March, lowering the unemployment rate to 3.4 percent from a revised 4.0 percent from one month ago.
  1. Compared to March 2021, total nonfarm employment increased by 103,600, or 7.4 percent. 49,900 additional jobs in Leisure and Hospitality led year-ago employment gains, with Professional and Business services adding 20,600 positions.
  1. Employment in San Diego lags pre-pandemic levels by only 14,000 jobs, with Leisure and Hospitality accounting for 9,000 missing payroll positions. However, industries in San Diego’s innovation economy are well ahead of where they were before COVID-19.

Unemployment rate drops below four percent in March 2022

The March employment report showed that San Diego establishments added 8,000 nonfarm payroll positions compared to February, with 5,000 of these jobs in Leisure and Hospitality. State and Local Government was the next-closest industry experiencing employment gains, with 2,000 additional jobs. These additions to San Diego’s economy drove the unemployment rate lower by 0.6 percentage points, from a revised 4.0 percent in February to 3.4 percent in March.

Health Care and Social Assistance lost the most jobs between February and March, dropping 1,300 payroll positions. Although Ambulatory Health Care Services accounted for 1,100 of the lost jobs, the industry employed more people in March 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. These lost jobs could be the result of lower transmission and infection rates of COVID, requiring fewer employees to manage workloads.

Leisure and Hospitality continues to lead year-ago employment gains

Overall, San Diego employers added 103,600 nonfarm payroll positions from March 2021 to March 2022. Leisure and Hospitality accounted for 49,900 of these jobs, which is not surprising considering that companies in this industry cluster were the hardest hit by the pandemic. The fact that businesses engaged in Accommodation and Food Services are adding more jobs with each new jobs report is a sign that San Diego is recovering well from the troughs of the pandemic.
Furthermore, not a single one of the industry clusters that the EDD tracks (e.g. Leisure and Hospitality and Professional and Business Services) showed year-ago jobs losses, providing further evidence of the steady recovery of San Diego’s economy back to pre-pandemic levels. Professional and Business Services added 20,600 positions to San Diego’s economy, a 7.9 percent increase over last year’s levels. As part of San Diego’s innovation economy, industries such as Scientific Research and Development Services tend to be comprised of quality jobs, those that offer economic security by paying a wage that keeps up with the cost of living and providing employer-sponsored health benefits. Some sub-industries, however, did shed jobs compared to a year ago, such as Nursing and Residential Care Facilities (down 2,300 jobs) and Durable Goods manufacturing (down 2,000 jobs).

Employment in San Diego lags pre-pandemic levels by only 14,000 jobs

San Diego’s total nonfarm employment ended March 2022 at 1,501,100 jobs, which is 14,000 shy of pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. Although employment in Leisure and Hospitality is still 9,000 jobs lower than before COVID-19, this industry cluster has consistently led the pack in each monthly jobs report, meaning that pre-pandemic levels are just within reach. This is a strong indicator of the region’s economic recovery and health, as Accommodation and Food Services companies were the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Employment in other industry clusters, including those that drive San Diego’s innovation economy, has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Professional and Business Services has added almost 20,000 positions to the region’s economy from February 2020, with 7,300 of these jobs belonging to Scientific Research and Development Services. Jobs in these industries often have a high concentration of high paying quality jobs. The record year that San Diego experienced with respect to venture capital—especially in Tech and Life Sciences companies—should result in even more hiring by these companies throughout 2022.

However, the economic stimulus over the course of the pandemic has resulted in the highest inflation seen for quite some time, with the 12-month inflation rate reaching 8.5 percent in March. This led the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates by 25 basis points, with expectations of more to come. These expectations have translated into a decreased appetite for borrowing and investment, slowing the record pace at which San Diego is attracting venture capital dollars.

In fact, investment in Series A, seed, angel, and growth stages totaled just over $1 billion in Q1 2022, a far cry from the $2.7 billion in Q1 last year. Though the rate at which money is flowing into San Diego Tech and Life Sciences companies is slowing, the region will feel the ripple effects of the record-setting year in 2021 for some time to come. For example, the current demand for lab space in San Diego County is triple the amount of new deliveries that are expected in the next 12 months. As these Life Sciences companies move into new commercial space in the region, they will need to hire for newly created positions, many of which are high-paying quality jobs.

However, San Diego companies across all industries are engaged in a bitter competition for talent. Not only do high levels of inflation make San Diego a more expensive place to live, but a white-hot housing market has sent home prices through the roof, with the median home price reaching $950,000 in March, a 19 percent increase from one year ago. This high cost of living in San Diego is a tax that deters talent from staying in or relocating to the region. By addressing San Diego’s affordability crisis and building San Diego’s talent pipeline, employers can do their part to bolster the region’s resiliency and global competitiveness.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: March 2022

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers January and February 2022, as well as an additional update on annual benchmark revisions, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.7 percentage points–from a revised 4.7 percent in January to 4 percent in February–with nonfarm employment increasing by 16,500 payroll positions.
  1. Employers in the region added more than 104,000 payroll positions since February 2021–with Service Providing industries accounting for 102,600 of the added jobs–lowering the unemployment rate by 3.7 percentage points.
  1. Annual benchmark revisions to employment data show that the region’s economy was recovering more rapidly than initially believed. Specifically, revisions to nonfarm employment for December 2021 improved the jobs count by more than 40,000 workers.

Service Providing industries lead month-ago and year-ago changes

February’s jobs report painted a positive picture for the San Diego regional economy. With respect to changes from January to February, nonfarm employment increased by 16,500, driving the unemployment rate lower to 4 percent from a revised 4.7 percent in January. Service Providing industries led the pack in employment gains, as Professional and Business Services added 6,100 jobs, Educational and Health Services added 4,800 jobs, and Leisure and Hospitality added 4,200 jobs. Trade, Transportation, and Utilities dropped 2,700 jobs, however, with employers in Retail Trade shedding 2,300 payroll positions. Manufacturing industries also had a down month, with losses of 1,000 jobs in Durable Goods production.

Service Providing industries were also the leaders in year-ago employment gains from February 2021, adding more than 104,000 jobs to the region. The slow and steady employment gains over the last year have resulted in the unemployment rate dropping by almost four percentage points from a revised 7.9 percent in February 2021 to 4 percent in February 2022. Within the Service Providing sector, Leisure and Hospitality added 52,700 positions, which is a good sign of recovery as these companies were the hardest hit during the pandemic. Employers in Professional and Business services also added 21,100 payroll positions, 9,300 of which were in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services. These gains were not felt across all industries, however, as Durable Goods manufacturing lost 1,900 jobs from February 2021.

February employment inches closer to pre-pandemic levels

Looking at changes from February 2020 to February 2022 shows that the region is getting ever closer to pre-pandemic levels, a good sign for the recovery of San Diego’s economy. Total nonfarm employment is only about 25,000 (1.64 percent) lower than before the pandemic. Over half of these missing jobs are in Leisure and Hospitality, as the industry shows 14,000 fewer jobs in February 2022 than the same month in 2020, a gap of around 7 percent. Durable goods manufacturing is also exhibiting signs of a slower recovery with 6,200 fewer payroll positions than before the pandemic, or about 7 percent lower.

Despite some industries still playing catch-up, many have surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels. Professional and Business Services employers have added 19,300 payroll positions since February 2020, an increase of 7.4 percent. Notably, Administrative and Support and Waste Services have added 11,000 jobs (up 12.4 percent) while Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services have increased employment by 8,900 (up 6.05 percent). Speaking to San Diego’s position as a leader in Innovation and Life Sciences, companies in Scientific Research and Development Services have added 7,300 jobs since the start of the pandemic, an increase of more than 20 percent. With a hiring frenzy in innovation-related industries in full force, it is imperative for our region’s competitiveness that we continue to bolster the supply of the skilled labor that San Diego companies demand.

This means building a strong local talent pipeline of home-grown talent. It also means addressing the region’s affordability crisis so that it remains attractive to both businesses and workers. More at

Annual revisions show employment was greater during 2021 than first believed

Every March, the California Employment Development Division works with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to revise employment data, a process called benchmarking. Depending on the year and the difficulties in gathering accurate employment data, these revisions might be significant. For reasons that should be unsurprising by now, 2021 was one such year.

What is striking about these revisions is the increasing underestimation of employment throughout 2021. Although January’s revised employment count was only about 500 greater than original estimates, the number had grown to 40,600 by December 2021. Put another way, original estimates were about 3 percent lower than the revised numbers. While this may seem like a trivial distinction, it does indicate that San Diego’s economic recovery was even stronger than originally believed. In fact, the industries that were most impacted by the pandemic reported some of largest upward revisions.

Leisure and Hospitality had 14,600 more jobs in December 2021 with the revised numbers (an upward revision of 8.7 percent), being driven by 8,500 jobs in Accommodation and Food Services (an upward revision of 5.8 percent). Revisions increased the employment count in Professional and Business Services by 12,100 (an upward revision of 4.5 percent), largely attributable to changes in Administrative and Support Services (an upward revision of 7,400, or 8.7 percent). All industries did not show an increase due to the annual revisions, however. Employment in Construction was lowered by 2,900 jobs (a downward revision of 3.4 percent) while the jobs count in Retail Trade was decreased by 2,100 jobs (a downward revision of 1.4 percent).

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San Diego’s Data Bites: January 2022

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers December 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in December from 4.6 percent in November; the number of people unemployed is nearly half of what it was a year ago.
  1. A banner year in venture capital funding appears to be driving job growth in Scientific Research and Development Services, which ended 2021 up 13.6 percent.
  1. The demand for skilled workers far exceeds the current supply of talent within the region. Key positions that employers are hiring for have high salaries and educational requirements.

Job losses and lower labor force participation in December

San Diego saw its unemployment rate fall again in December to 4.2 percent, however labor force participation declined as well. Compared to December 2020, there are now 56,900 fewer people unemployed. While many have returned to work as evidenced by the strong job growth throughout 2021, more than 65,000 people continue to be out of work. The region’s unemployment rate remains below that of the state and above the national average, 5.0 percent and 3.7 percent respectively, as it has been throughout the year.

Total nonfarm employment dropped by 1,200 jobs in December. Construction and Healthcare and Social Assistance experienced the greatest monthly declines, each shedding 2,400 payroll positions. However, many of the job losses were offset by gains in other sectors. Professional and Business Services led the way with 4,100 jobs added in December and is now up 5.3 percent from December 2020. Trade, Transportation, and Utilities also increased by 2,500 jobs, driven by Retail Trade, which boosted the overall sector with 1,200 jobs.

Record venture capital funding is propelling job growth

In 2021, the region pulled in nearly $9 billion of venture funding dwarfing anything seen in years past. While the biggest venture capital deals have gone toward technology startups, San Diego Life Sciences companies pulled in $1.6 billion more than their tech counterparts throughout the year. The surge of venture capital dollars is beginning to translate into faster job growth in San Diego.

Scientific Research and Development Services added 1,700 jobs in December after averaging monthly gains of just 300 jobs during the first 11 months of 2021 and is now up 5,200, or 13.6 percent, compared to a year ago. This represents a rapid acceleration from the 7.0 percent growth rate of previous five years. Looking further back, we see that the industry has nearly doubled its contribution to the regional economy, which was slightly above $5 billion in 2010 and is now about $9.7 billion.

While an additional 5,200 jobs in a high paying industry is certainly welcome, an analysis of job postings suggests that San Diego employers were trying to hire as many as 39,000 more workers in 2021. The demand is mostly for high-skilled, high-paying positions. In fact, more than 21 percent of jobs in the industry are concentrated in just four occupations: medical scientists, biochemists and biophysicists, project management specialists, and software developers. Importantly, all these positions typically require a four-year college degree at the entry-level.

Employers have reported increasing difficulty hiring throughout the year, leaving the region woefully undersupplied in terms of the talent needed to sustain industry growth. Ensuring that the region is an affordable one is paramount to attracting and retaining talent. In the long-term, San Diego must invest in the next generation workforce and develop a pipeline of skilled talent to meet employer demand. Looking at the demographics of the region, the focus must be on an inclusive economic development strategy that support Black and Brown youth at the same level of their white peers. Doing so will safeguard the future competitiveness of the region.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: December 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers November 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added 15,000 jobs to the region’s economy in November, bringing total nonfarm employment to 1,469,800. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent from a revised 5.3 percent in October. Although total employment is still 45,400 lower than pre-pandemic levels, job growth is trending in the right direction.
  1. Retail Trade showed the largest employment gains in November with 5,400 payroll positions added, which is unsurprising as local retailers prepared for the holiday season. In fact, according to Affinity Solutions, consumer spending in San Diego during November was about 20 percent greater than January 2020.
  1. Housing affordability is a perennial issue for San Diego. Even taking geographic variation into consideration, all but one ZIP code in San Diego is unaffordable when comparing median income to average mortgage payments. High cost of living in San Diego could push away the talent that businesses need to compete both domestically and internationally.

Employment gains continue across industries

Following October’s impressive employment gain–revised to 29,100 jobs added– employers in San Diego added 15,000 payroll positions, most of which is from hiring for the holiday season. Employment in Retail Trade increased by 5,400 and was fairly consistent throughout subsectors. Despite brick-and-mortar establishments remaining open, novel variants of the COVID-19 virus remain a concern, creating hesitancy to return to work or shop in-person.

As such, e-commerce and online retail are expected to have record years, reflected in part by employment gains in Transportation and Warehousing of 2,200 jobs. Since more consumers are shopping online this holiday season than in previous years, online retailers are employing more workers in fulfillment centers and warehouses. In fact, Amazon is further expanding its footprint in the region, with a new warehouse and jobs in Otay Mesa.

Although these employment gains are often seasonal, San Diego’s thriving Life Sciences cluster is driving growth of quality jobs in Professional and Business Services, with Scientific Research and Development Services adding 700 jobs in November. These jobs are not only high-paying, but the ripple effects through the rest of the economy are significant, as every job in Scientific Research and Development Services supports two jobs elsewhere in the economy through indirect and induced effects.

Affordability remains a challenge

It is no secret that coastal regions are some of the most expensive places in the world to buy a home, and San Diego is no exception. Although the housing affordability crisis was present before COVID, the pandemic has had profound effects on the housing market. Home sales in San Diego skyrocketed across 2020 and 2021, taking home prices along for the ride to record highs. Although the determinants of this activity are many, the Great Reshuffling of workers played a large role in what the housing market has experienced over the past two years. The relocation of workers has many facets, but two stand out: workers being forced to move to a more affordable region due to being laid off; and the adoption of remote work by many employers.

As some workers were forced out of San Diego in search of employment and more affordable housing, others fortunate enough to keep their jobs in a remote work environment were afforded the opportunity to move into the region. Anecdotal evidence abounds of homes being sold in the snap of a finger, in cash, and above listing price. Over the course of the pandemic, the ratio of median home sales price to median home list price was greater than one in many ZIP codes in San Diego. This means that demand for homes was so great over the pandemic that competitive offers for purchasing a home needed to come in above the listing price.

While the sale-to-list ratio sheds light on activity in the housing market, affordability is captured by the ratio of median household income to average mortgage payments, with higher numbers implying better affordability. Generally speaking, mortgage payments should comprise about 30 percent of household income–an income to payment ratio of 3.3; any more than that is considered housing cost burdened. We calculated the average monthly mortgage payment for the median priced home in ZIP codes across San Diego, using mortgage rates provided by FRED and assuming zero percent down. Comparing the median household income in each ZIP code to these average mortgage payments gives an indication of the level of affordability in a given geographic area.

True to the trend, coastal communities in San Diego are the least affordable, with many ZIP codes showing an income to payment ratio below 1. In fact, there is not a single coastal community that exhibits an income to payment ratio above 1.4. This means that if the median income household purchased a home at the median price for that particular ZIP code, approximately 71 percent of their monthly income would be allocated toward their mortgage payment.

As can be seen in the interactive map above, the further away from the coast, the more affordable housing is relative to the coastal communities. However, this does not simply imply that housing is affordable in absolute terms. Taking an income to payment ratio of 3.3 as the threshold of housing cost burdened, only one zip code in San Diego qualifies as affordable: Palomar Mountain, 92060.

San Diego is an unaffordable market for a majority of home buyers, especially first-time home buyers who were born and raised here. The most pressing problem is the slow pace of new construction permits, which are not keeping up with population growth and housing demand in San Diego. As San Diego becomes a more expensive place to live, talent is steered away from the region. Developing, recruiting, and retaining this talent is pivotal for the success of regional businesses, both large and small.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: November 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers October 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added a whopping 27,500 payroll positions to the region in October. This is the largest month-ago increase since February 2021, just after COVID vaccines were rolled out in the United States.
  1. Professional and Business Services continues to be a driver of job growth in the region, adding 6,500 positions in October, now up 11,000 compared to a year ago. Firms in this sector tend to offer high-paying, quality jobs that have profound impacts on our region.
  1. Tech firms saw a flood of venture capital funding with more than $766 million in October alone. Deployment of these funds over the next several years will likely lead to job growth in high-paying occupations across the San Diego region.

Job growth surges

San Diego employers added 27,500 jobs to the region from September to October 2021, nudging the unemployment rate lower by 0.3 percentage points from a revised 5.6 percent in September to 5.3 percent in October. Taking into consideration that the labor force also grew by 16,100 over the same period, this is great news for our region as we continue to take strides toward a full recovery. Compared to October 2020, total employment grew by 61,700 jobs and labor force participation increased by 12,100.

Professional and Business Services had the largest absolute job growth between in October, adding 6,500 payroll positions to our region. While Administrative and Support Services was the main driver of this growth—adding 3,800 jobs—Professional, Scientific, and Technical (PST) Services was not far behind with 2,600 positions added. The steady growth of PST Services reflects the influx of venture capital funding into Tech and Life Sciences firms in the region, as San Diego continues to cultivate high-paying jobs in innovation industries.

Employment growth in Leisure and Hospitality was second-highest with respect to jobs added, tacking on an additional 5,400 positions between September and October. Food Services and Drinking Places was responsible for a majority of this growth, bringing on 4,400 jobs.

Strikingly, there were no jobs losses in any of the supersectors tracked in the monthly employment report, which can be viewed in the interactive graphic below.

Funding home-made solutions

San Diego has experienced a phenomenal year for venture capital funding, with local companies pulling in close to $6.5 billion between Q1 and Q3 of this year. So far, Q4 has continued this trend as companies in the San Diego region raked in more than $1.3 billion in October alone. Although Life Sciences companies have attracted the lion’s share of funding in 2021, October bucked this trend as Tech companies attracted VC funding exceeding $766 million—more than quadruple that of Life Sciences companies in the region. Of the 17 deals that occurred in October, two broke the $100 million mark: local unicorns ClickUp and Flock Freight.

Pulling in $400 million in Series C funding was ClickUp, a software and app developer that creates productivity-enhancing technology that relocated here from the Bay Area in 2019. What sets ClickUp apart is the integration of a wide variety of services within one platform, from project management to marketing. With the new funding, ClickUp has reached a valuation of $4 billion, and plans to add 1,000 jobs by 2024 (job board here). This growth will more than double its existing workforce of 700, most of which are in San Diego.

Headquartered in Encinitas, Flock Freight hauled in $215 million in Series D funding in October, pushing its total valuation upwards of $1 billion. Supply chain disruptions are impacting everyone, and Flock Freight is helping to relieve the bottlenecks by helping to fill the trucks already on the road. Akin to ridesharing for trucking logistics, Flock Freight helps companies reduce their own costs by pooling together shipments from multiple businesses into fewer trucks, leveraging predictive algorithms to find the cheapest and quickest route to transport goods. Freight Flock not only saves hard costs, but also minimizes the negative externalities associated with trucking logistics, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 percent. (Plus, they’re hiring!)

More on San Diego unicorns here

San Diego’s innovation cluster is key, not only for getting this recovery right, but also for the future competitiveness of San Diego. Jobs in innovation industries tend to be high-paying, quality jobs, and each job in the innovation cluster supports two jobs elsewhere in the economy. As the innovation cluster grows, so too will the rest of the economy. Ensuring that we have the talent necessary to fuel that growth has never been more important.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: October 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers September 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added a meager 3,600 payroll positions between August and September, all of which came from the public sector as teachers and school staff were brought back on.
  1. The unemployment rate tumbled to 5.6 percent in September from August’s 6.6 percent. However, the improvement is out of step with the payroll job counts and may not withstand data revisions.
  1. Inflation in San Diego has been running even hotter than the national average in recent months. However, fundamentals suggest price pressures will ease by next Spring.

A lackluster report

San Diego establishments added a meager 3,600 payroll positions between August and September, all of which came from the public sector as teachers and school staff were brought back on. A build of 9,500 government positions was partially offset by the loss of 5,900 private-sector jobs. Losses in Other Services—which include gyms and salons—gave up 1,800 positions, followed by a loss of 1,500 in Leisure and Hospitality, potentially spotlighting the impacts of the Delta and Mu COVID-19 variants on the job market.

While the employment report is typically referenced as a single data point, it is actually an agglomeration of two separate surveys: (1) the establishment survey, which is used to measure the number of payroll jobs gained or lost in a given month, and (2) the household survey that provides information on the labor force and is used to calculate the unemployment rate. Typically, these two surveys line up pretty well, but last month was an exception. The separate household survey revealed that the jobless rate dropped a full percentage point from 6.6 percent in August to a post-pandemic low of 5.6 percent last month. That said, the improvement is out of step with the payroll jobs count and relies on a much smaller sample size. As such, last month’s decline in unemployment may not withstand revisions, and future reports may indicate a higher jobless rate in the region.

Inflation concerns are overinflated

The economy is dealing with an issue that it hasn’t had to in quite a while: inflation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that the widely watched consumer price index (CPI) increased 5.4 percent from September 2020 to September 2021, the fastest year-over-year rise since July 2007 to 2008. Closer to home, consumer prices in San Diego County rose at an even brisker 6.5 percent during that time, the second highest rate of inflation among a group of 12 metro areas reported for September behind only Riverside CA. Much of this can be attributed to a sharp rise in housing costs.

As of August, San Diego house prices were up 26 percent from a year ago, but this is due in large part to two phenomena: (1) lower mortgage rates, and (2) people taking advantage of lower house prices in East County. Mortgage rates are responsible for 70 percent of San Diego house price fluctuations, about double the national average. A brief rise in borrowing costs paused the climb in home values in the late Spring, but it will take a more convincing rise in rates to bring property values back to Earth. This should begin in early 2022 after the Federal Reserve starts to normalize monetary policy.

Wage growth presents the biggest hurdle to quelling inflation in the near term. According to Emsi, advertised salaries for open positions in San Diego were up 4.9 percent in September 2021 from a year earlier as employers hunt for scarce talent. For context, that rise was nearly double the average rate of 2.5 percent observed between 2010 and 2019 but about half the 9.7 percent increase observed in 2020. Given the deceleration from 2020, it would already appear that wage inflation pressures are subsiding.

It remains to be seen whether rising wages will be enough to bring people back to the workforce. More than 50,000 San Diegans are yet to return to the job market, and much of the increase in wages over the past year is attributable to a handful of industries that were struggling to source talent even before the pandemic. Finance and insurance companies are advertising salaries that are 21 percent higher than they were in September 2020, while information firms are paying 20 percent more to fill open positions. Yet salaries for Accommodation and Food Services positions are only up three percent.

One in four positions to be recovered in the region are in Accommodation and Food Services, so it could take a more convincing pay boost to bring people back. While this would immediately lead to more wage inflation, it would alleviate inflation in the medium to long term, since an influx of workers would reduce the need for companies to bid up wages.

Taken together, fundamentals suggest that inflation will subside in coming months. The big question is whether people will return to the job market. The combination of rising wages, falling COVID-19 case numbers, and kids returning to the classroom should spur more folks to come back to work. However, as has been the case since March 2020, it will be the virus that dictates how these events unfold. Any rise in San Diego’s COVID-19 numbers could keep people away from jobs that require close personal contact, and this will hurt companies in service industries that pay lower wages and typically don’t provide health benefits the most.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: September 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers August 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added a less-than-stellar 5,300 jobs in August, undoing July’s seasonal loss. Gains were concentrated in Construction and Government as teachers and school staff were brought back onto payrolls in preparation for kids’ return to the classroom.
  1. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent in August from July’s 6.9 percent. However, this was due to 11,800 people leaving the workforce, not job gains.
  1. August’s employment report provides more evidence that emergency federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are not sidelining workers, contrary to popular belief. Yet the data do point to another potential reason: workers are refusing to return because of the risk of exposure to COVID amid low pay and no healthcare benefits.

The data

San Diego companies added an underwhelming 5,300 jobs in August, while the exit of 11,800 workers lowered the unemployment rate to 6.6 percent from July’s 6.9 percent. August’s jobs build erases July’s loss, but the region still lags behind the national jobs recovery. Just over half of the jobs shed during the pandemic have been recovered locally, compared with about 80 percent nationwide.

Public agencies led the charge in August, adding 3,500 positions as teachers and school staff were brought back onto payrolls as kids prepared to return to the classroom. Construction came in at a close second, adding 3,400 jobs last month. However, Leisure and Hospitality, which has led job gains for nearly all of the recovery, added just 2,000 payrolls, potentially reflecting a change in preferences and attitudes among workers (more on that below). Transportation, Warehousing, and Professional and Business Services added another 600 jobs combined.

Gains in those industries were partially offset by losses in Other Services (gyms, salons, building and grounds maintenance, etc.), Finance, Wholesale Trade, Manufacturing, Retail, Healthcare, and private Educational Services.

Exposure, health insurance, and the jobs recovery

August’s employment report provides more evidence that UI benefits are not sidelining workers, contrary to popular belief. The line of thinking has been that an extra $300 per week in federal UI benefits is substantial enough for lower-paid workers in service industries to not return to the workforce. However, those emergency UI benefits terminate in early September, so the expectation would be for thousands of idle workers to return as the UI windfall is rolled off ahead of that.

To be sure, $300 per week amounts to just less than half of the gross pay received by workers in San Diego’s Leisure and Hospitality sector. Yet, Leisure and Hospitality establishments added a mere 2,000 net positions last month with another 33,200 jobs yet to be recovered.

The data may not support the notion that UI benefits are keeping workers home, but they do point to another potential reason: workers are refusing to return because of the risk of exposure to COVID amid low pay and no healthcare benefits. San Diego COVID cases, including the Delta and Mu variants, have fallen since peaking in mid-August, thanks to the County’s high vaccination rate, but they nonetheless remain higher than levels seen in May and June of this year. Many workers in lower-paying, public-facing positions may have therefore concluded that going back to work at $15 per hour isn’t worth the risk of exposure, even if it means forfeiting an extra $1,200 per month in federal UI benefits.

The San Diego region is yet to recoup 107,900 jobs lost during the pandemic, 60 percent of which are in industries that are either public-facing or have limited capacity for social distancing, such as Leisure and Hospitality, Retail, Education, and Manufacturing. However, most of these industries are closing in on pre-pandemic employment levels, while Leisure and Hospitality is not.

A combination of steady job growth and the rollout of health insurance mandates through the Affordable Care Act significantly reduced the number of uninsured San Diegans during the 2010s. Even with the expansion of insurance coverage, however, EDC estimates that anywhere from 11,000 to 17,000 people have been left without any health benefits since February 2020 as their jobs evaporated or they left the labor force.

Worse, many can’t even rely on getting jobs for health coverage. Nearly 10 percent of employed people in San Diego still lack any sort of health insurance; that number jumps to 16 percent for food preparation and serving-related positions at restaurants and bars and climbs as high as 29 percent for building and grounds maintenance positions. But those figures also include public insurance. Excluding public insurance options, some 54 percent of food prep workers and servers and 60 percent of building and grounds workers receive no health insurance through their employer or union.

Estimates for average hospital costs associated with COVID-19 treatment range from $30,000 to $50,000. A Kaiser Family Foundation study also found that 72 percent of major health insurance plans across the U.S. have already stopped full coverage of COVID-related treatments, and that will increase to 93 percent by year-end. Meanwhile, the average annual salary for food prep workers and servers in San Diego is $29,500. Hence, being infected by COVID or one of its variants could easily spell financial ruin for these workers even if they already have health coverage. Faced with those statistics, it would be more financially irresponsible to return to work than to stay home and wait out the recent spate of COVID infections.

Taken together, it’s safe to assume that many lower-paid service workers in public-facing jobs may not return anytime soon until the benefits clearly outweigh the risk. This puts low-margin local businesses in service industries in a precarious position: either lure workers back with higher pay and/or benefits and pass on the additional costs to customers, or run the risk of operating at less than 100 percent capacity, which would crimp revenues and also hurt bottom lines.

Regardless of the answer to that question, these data underscore the desperate need for more quality jobs in the area, particularly at smaller companies, if we ever hope to restore a sense of normalcy in the job market going forward. Humans may be creatures of habit, but large-scale economic displacement has a way of fundamentally altering our preferences and routines. The pandemic-fueled recession last year has almost certainly led workers to place greater importance on their personal safety and health than before, and employers will need to adapt in order to attract and retain talent.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: August 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers July 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego lost a net 7,800 payroll jobs in July, but this is largely due to seasonal fluctuations. Public and private educational services employment dropped by 16,200 as teachers and staff break for summer. Barring those losses, payrolls grew by 8,400, led by a build of 6,100 positions at Leisure and Hospitality establishments.
  1. The unemployment rate ticked lower to 6.9 percent from June’s 7.0 percent even as an additional 16,100 workers joined or rejoined the labor force last month. The labor force has grown by more than 24,000 people since June, further debunking the assertion that workers are sidelining themselves amid extended emergency federal unemployment benefits.
  1. Recent data on COVID cases have been flashing red, but there’s good reason to believe that San Diego will not suffer as badly as other regions across the country where fewer people have been fully vaccinated. Additionally, the data clearly support the idea that the region’s recovery hinges in large part on how many more San Diegans get the vaccine in the coming weeks.

The data

San Diego establishments shed 7,800 jobs in July, primarily the result of seasonality. The vast majority of job losses came from public and private Educational Services as teachers and staff began summer break and durable goods Manufacturing as factories undergo annual retooling. As such, job losses in July are common and not unexpected, and it’s worth noting that last month’s losses were less severe than in prior years leading up to the pandemic.

Local Government Education (K-12 schools), State Government Education (colleges and universities), and private Educational Services gave up a combined 16,200 positions, leading the region’s losses for the month. Meanwhile, durable goods Manufacturing employment fell by 1,100.

On the bright side, Leisure and Hospitality continued to lead job growth, adding 6,100 jobs in July, followed by an additional 2,800 Construction jobs.

Notwithstanding last month’s minor setback, employment is up 4.5 percent from a year earlier, another positive indication that San Diego is restoring jobs lost during the COVID pandemic. In particular, Accommodation and Food Services employment, which was hit the hardest during the pandemic, has jumped 36.7 percent compared to July 2020.

What about COVID?

Recent headlines have focused largely on the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infections across the country, as the Delta variant spread through communities and mask mandates and business restrictions were relaxed over the summer. To be sure, the seven-day average for new cases in the U.S. spiked more than tenfold to 140,000 as of August 18 after settling at around just 11,000 to 12,000 new cases per day in the second half of June.

Cases in the San Diego region have also climbed significantly in recent weeks, although the story is more nuanced here. Vaccination has been a key asset to the region: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45.4 percent of all residents in San Diego County are fully vaccinated (have received at least two doses), placing the region in the 75th percentile for all counties in the United States. Vaccination does not provide 100 percent immunity to COVID-19 or its variants, but it does reduce the severity of symptoms, including the possibility of death. In fact, looking across all counties, the death rate is reduced by 0.1 percentage point for each additional five percent of the population that gets vaccinated. Put differently, for every 500 people who get vaccinated, another San Diego life can be saved.

So, even though the regional seven-day average has increased from just two cases per 100,000 residents in June to 38 new cases per 100,000 residents as of August 18, the death rate, at 1.1 percent, remains significantly lower than the U.S. (1.7 percent), California (1.5 percent), and the surrounding counties (1.6 percent to 2.3 percent). Moreover, despite the increase in cases, San Diego’s rate of 38 per 100,000 people still lies below the nation’s 43 case per 100,000 Americans.

The CDC releases county- and state-level COVID caseload forecasts based on models that account for local vaccination rates and assumptions surrounding social distancing, among other items. Similar to California as a whole, San Diego’s relatively high vaccination rate led the CDC to forecast an essentially flat trajectory for cases through mid-September. This is in fairly stark contrast to the projections for U.S. case numbers, which are expected to climb substantially over the next several weeks as unvaccinated populations become susceptible to the profusion of the Delta variant and are exposed to the virus as Main Street businesses reopen.

While another climb in COVID cases is less than ideal, San Diego should be able to emerge from the most recent wave better off than other regions where the local populations are not as widely vaccinated. This should help to mitigate the economic fallout here as residents rebuild the confidence to engage in public life again.

Even so, it is crucial that this analysis not be misconstrued as a reason to let our guard down. If anything, this analysis shows just how critical it is for everyone to get vaccinated to better protect ourselves and our economy. Increased vaccination will help to accelerate the region’s recovery while simultaneously reducing uncertainty around the COVID virus and its variants.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: July 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers June 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added a middling 5,700 net new payroll positions in June, although revisions uncovered an additional 1,000 jobs in May. Gains in Leisure and Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Healthcare were largely offset by losses in Government, Professional and Business Services, Education, and Finance.
  1. The unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped to seven percent from May’s 6.3 percent, according to a separate survey of household employment. However, this was driven in large part by 7,600 people either joining or rejoining the labor force last month, a positive sign for future growth.
  1. Data suggest that enhanced unemployment benefits are not preventing workers from finding and taking jobs in San Diego.

First impression

San Diego establishments added a middling 5,700 net new positions in June, following a build of 3,000 (initially reported as +2,000) jobs in May. Leisure and Hospitality continued to lead gains with an additional 4,800 jobs last month, followed by Manufacturing (+2,000) and Healthcare and Social Assistance (+1,500). However, gains in those industries were largely offset by losses in Government (-1,600), Professional and Business Services (-800), Education (-500), and Finance (-500).

More surprisingly, the separate household survey indicated that the unemployment rate jumped from May’s 6.3 percent (initially reported as 6.4 percent) to seven percent in June. However, this was driven in large part by 7,600 people either joining or rejoining the labor force. This could prove to be a big positive for growth in the coming months, particularly since employers have been worried that there aren’t enough workers to fill open positions (more on that below).

The relatively ho-hum jobs report for last month may be a result of timing. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) surveys businesses and households during the week of the 12th of each month. However, California’s economy, including San Diego, didn’t reopen fully until the June 15, so jobs created after reopening may not show up until July’s employment report.

Are unemployment benefits preventing workers from finding jobs?

Nationally, a fiery debate has erupted regarding jobless benefits and the jobs recovery. On one side, many argue that unemployment insurance benefits, particularly enhanced federal unemployment benefits that came online as the pandemic bore down on the economy last year, are essentially “paying people to stay home” and preventing them from returning to work. Others argue that the story is more nuanced, and that other factors like access to childcare and health concerns have prevented many folks from returning.

So, what do the data tell us about San Diego’s job market?

To begin with, nearly 8,000 people entered or reentered the labor force last month, so it doesn’t appear that workers are waiting on the sidelines.

Also, job openings in the San Diego region are on the rise and, in June, nearly matched their July 2019, pre-pandemic peak. More than 116,000 new jobs were posted last month, up 55 percent from April 2020’s nadir.

It’s important to note that, just like workers, jobs are not identical, so it’s crucial to understand which positions are being advertised and for which industries. Of the 248,000 jobs lost in the region between February and April 2020, 53 percent were in Accommodation and Food Services; Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; and Retail. Unlike total job postings, which have essentially returned to pre-pandemic norms, postings in these three industries still rest 23 percent below their July 2019 peak. Moreover, postings in these industries only accounted for 13.6 percent of all new job openings from April 2020 to June 2021. This implies that the majority of job postings growth has been within industries that suffered far fewer job losses in the pandemic and therefore have fewer available workers to choose from, which better helps to explain why unemployment has not fallen faster in recent months.

Timing should also be considered. Leading up to the pandemic, it took a median 37 days for Accommodation, Arts, and Entertainment, and Retail companies to fill open positions. By June 2021, that number fell to 33 days (also challenging the claim that workers are engaging less with open jobs because of unemployment insurance payouts), but it still implies that it could take at least one to two months before those filled positions show up in the employment data.

Finally, of the more than 140,000 jobs recovered between April 2020 and June 2021, 85,500—or 61 percent—have come from Accommodations, Arts, and Entertainment, and Retail.

Taken together, the data suggest that workers in San Diego are eager to return to work and reestablish some sense of normalcy after more than a year of being dislocated. All told, worries over enhanced jobless benefits preventing people from taking new jobs appear to be overblown, at least locally.

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San Diego’s Data Bites: June 2021

Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers May 2021, with data on employment, housing, and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.


  1. San Diego establishments added just 2,000 net new payroll positions in May. Gains in Leisure and Hospitality were largely offset by losses in Construction and Professional and Business Services.
  1. The unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent from April’s 6.7 percent even as several thousand people joined or rejoined the labor force.
  1. The sharp rise in home values appears to be over, but housing affordability is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Industry view

Job gains were inconsistent across industries. Out of the 16 supersectors tracked by the California Employment Development Department (EDD), six sectors showed job growth, three sectors showed no change, and seven sectors showed job losses. Leisure and Hospitality led these sectors with 3,900 jobs added in May—3,100 of which were in the Accommodation and Food Services subsector—tacking on to the 7,000 jobs added in April. These gains were followed by increases in Government positions (1,200 jobs), Healthcare and Social Assistance (1,000 jobs), and Transportation and Warehousing (800 jobs).

Job losses in several industries countered some of the growth in May’s employment. Professional and Business services backtracked in May with a decrease of 2,500 jobs—2,100 of which were in the Administrative and Support Services subsector. Construction also reversed some of the headway made in April with a loss of 1,200 jobs in May.

While May’s employment report may have underwhelmed, year-over-year (YoY) growth continues to show just how far San Diego’s regional economy has come since the pandemic eliminated more than 200,000 jobs in the region. Employment in Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores has increased 136.7 percent since May of last year, followed by growth of 44.3 percent in Leisure and Hospitality. See below for month-over-month and year-over-year change by industry.

San Diego’s housing market comes back to earth, but remains largely unaffordable

Despite the unprecedented disruption to the regional labor market from COVID-19, house prices climbed at an accelerated rate. The average listing price for a home in San Diego climbed 38 percent from February 2020 to February 2021. Home values have fallen off those recent highs, but the fact remains that the average price of a home in May was still some 22 percent higher than it was in February 2020.

Fortunately, it looks like affordability (measured as the ratio of total income to average monthly mortgage payment) may be improving. After 13 months of deterioration, the aggregate affordability of a home in San Diego was up 14.3 percent in May from March 2021. Several factors are at play. First, wage income has increased as job gains have continued. Second, the rise in mortgage rates of 25 to 30 basis points has pushed home prices down to help lower average monthly mortgage payments by 12.1 percent. This is because lower mortgage rates are an important factor driving price gains for real estate in San Diego County. Mortgage rates account for 70 percent of house price changes locally, almost double the national average of 35 to 40 percent. This makes sense, considering that San Diego real estate isn’t cheap, and homebuyers have likely been trying to maximize the amount of house they can buy given their budget.

The progress on affordability is encouraging, but more work needs to be done. San Diego County’s housing market has been chronically undersupplied for more than a decade, putting upward pressure on prices. This has accelerated churn in the local population, where lower-income households are being priced out to other parts of the state or elsewhere across the U.S., but new residents are showing up with high-paying jobs in hand who can continue to drive real estate values higher. If it continues, this trend may only serve to exacerbate San Diego’s affordability problem and could limit homeownership to an even smaller proportion of the population. Ensuring San Diego remains affordable and attractive to business and people is critical to its economic recovery and future competitiveness.

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