Economy in crisis: Fresh thinking on career advancement is needed


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.

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Economy in crisis: July jobs report likely to be overhyped


  • 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.


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.


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.



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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COVID-19 Survey Results: Anticipated impacts become reality, minority owned businesses hit hard, and workspace changes will continue

Earlier this year, we deployed a survey to assess the immediate economic impacts and evolving business sentiment in the wake of COVID-19.

To assess changes over time, we have deployed a follow-up survey with our partners at San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center. The Downtown San Diego Partnership and National City Chamber of Commerce also served as survey partners. Information collected was from May 28 – June 8 and includes 194 valid responses.

Three trends stood out based on what employers told us:

  1. Anticipated revenue declines and staff reductions confirmed by businesses; 41 percent of businesses surveyed saw revenues decline by 81 to 100%, 93 percent saw  staffing declines of one to 50 employees.
  1. Minority owned businesses are hardest hit but may lead recovery. Long term, minority owned businesses anticipate continuing workspace changes (56 percent), teleworking (41 percent), offering online services (34 percent), and virtual programming and team building.
  1. Telework is here to stay, with 47 percent of firm surveyed reporting workspace changes to continue after the state of emergency is over.

Understanding COVID-19’s impact: an interactive visualization

Below is an interactive visualization of self-reported impacts to local employers, both in terms of employment and revenue. You can segment the data by industry, number of employees, and typical annual revenue. Additionally, please scroll over the tab to look at the breakdown of responses via zip code. Please note, this is not a representative sample – meaning we did not weigh responses operationally to the population and demographics of the region – so we strongly advise against drawing sub-regional conclusions from this data.

Survey Overview

The economic impacts of this crisis disproportionately affect the parts of our community that are disconnected from growth: communities of color and small businesses. The right recovery means focusing on efforts that benefit all San Diegans in this unique moment in time.

The overwhelming majority of firms surveyed (93 percent) were small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) and most (73 percent) had revenues of less than $1 million in 2019. Survey respondents were concentrated in the food and beverage, professional services, manufacturing, and retail industries.

Nearly 93 percent of firms surveyed saw their revenue decline, with most (41 percent) declining by 81 to 100 percent. However, more than one third expect revenues to return to 2019 levels in six to 12 months. The majority cut back on payrolls, with nearly 74 percent reducing staff hours and 60 percent reducing staff. The food and beverage industry had the most (19 percent) full time layoffs, followed by professional services (17 percent). Overall, most firms in all industries expect layoffs to be temporary, but 32 percent are still unsure. The uncertainty might be due to growing concern that the economy will fully reopen within the coming summer months, but a second wave in the fall will turn temporary layoffs into permanent ones.

Nearly 87 percent of firms surveyed applied for government (federal, state, or city) or private (company grants or bank loans) funding, and 70 percent who applied received funding. Firms that received private (company grants or bank loans) funding received more than $260,000 on average and firms that received government funding received more than $245,000 on average

Firms located in the opportunity zone represent 12 percent of survey respondents, or 24 businesses. In terms of access to capital, nearly 63 percent of firms located in an Opportunity Zone cited access to capital as a long term need in response to COVID-19, while 43 percent of all survey respondents cited access to capital as a long term need.

When asked about the changes a firm has experienced as a result of the pandemic, the top response was “scope of work”, which indicates firms are adjusting their business models and changing the range in which they operate in response to COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, in the short-term, businesses’ greatest needs are increased revenues and additional capital. While many businesses are unsure of the longer-term impact, they still anticipate needing capital and replacing staff.

Anticipated Revenue Declines and Staffing Reductions Confirmed

Most anticipated revenue impacts in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were realized, even as reopening continues across San Diego County. More than 95 percent of businesses surveyed that expected their revenue to decline saw an actual decline in their revenue. Nearly 97 percent of businesses that expected their revenue to decline by 81 to 100 percent saw an actual decline of that amount.

Most anticipated staffing impacts in the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic were realized as well. More than 73 percent of firms surveyed who anticipated staff reductions actually reduced their staff. Most staff reductions were between 1 and 50 employees. More than 78 percent of those that anticipated staff reductions of one to 50 employees actually saw these reductions.

Minority-Owned Businesses

A new report shows that because minority owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID, they may demonstrate how US businesses will ultimately adapt. These businesses are experimenting with new ways of working to ensure their employees’ safety, offering relief to employees and community members, and introducing new services. In San Diego, the top adjustments minority owned businesses made in response to the pandemic that are working well are workspace changes (56 percent), teleworking (41 percent), offering online services (34 percent), and virtual programming and team building.

There were 44 minority owned businesses that responded to the survey. Nearly all (98 percent) of minority owned businesses surveyed were small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. These businesses are concentrated in professional services, food and beverage, manufacturing, and retail – the industries hardest hit by COVID-19. The latest employment data shows that from February to June 2020, local retail, food and beverage, and professional services lost a combined 86,200 jobs. More than 90 percent of minority owned businesses have seen their revenue decline, with most experiencing steep revenue declines of 81 to 100 percent.

Workspace Future

In order to keep operating, many businesses have made changes to their physical workspace and/or are have employees working remotely. Firms surveyed expect to maintain these arrangements even after the state of emergency is lifted. Nearly 76 percent of firms surveyed report physical space as critical for operation, with most of those businesses in food and beverage, professional services, and manufacturing. Only seven percent of firms reported the pandemic has shown them that office space is unnecessary. Firms were split in regards to whether physical workspace will decrease, increase, or remain the same in the future.

Resources for you

San Diego Regional EDC, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and San Diego and Imperial SBDC offer a variety of resources to help businesses.

If you would like assistance from EDC, please use this form. Once we receive your responses, we will make every effort to reach out to you within 24 hours.

Request EDC assistance

If you are looking for general information about COVID-19, please view this page.

You can view last week’s COVID-19 survey results, as well as a full screen dashboard, here.

San Diego science: how genomics is addressing the global pandemic

San Diego is ranked the among the top genomics markets in the nation, and we have world leaders in next-generation sequencing (NGS) in our backyard. With access to genomic experts and innovative companies who are paving the way for the future of medicine, our region has become a hotspot for transformative life-changing science.

On June 23, San Diego: Life. Changing., EDC’s talent attraction campaign, hosted a panel with scientists who are studying modern genomics to address COVID-19. This panel, titled “San Diego Science & the Global Pandemic: Genomics”, was the second event in a series of virtual panels. We made sure this panel was attractive to everyone, meaning whether you have a PhD or you are a freshman-year-biology-class drop out, the expert panelists broke down the science into layman’s terms to tell the attendees what they need to know about the future of precision medicine and COVID-19.

The panel was moderated by Kathy Lynch, Vice President, Global Government Affairs & Public Policy for Illumina, who plays a critical role in connecting San Diego science with global markets. She moderated a fascinating panel with two distinguished (and very local) scientists.

The first panelist, Gary P. Schroth, Ph.D., Vice President and Distinguished Scientist at Illumina, uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) to study genomics, gene structure, expression and regulation and applies this to projects in the fields of cancer, immunology, microbiology and infectious disease. Over the course of his career Dr. Schroth has been an author on more than 95 peer reviewed research papers and holds 19 U.S. patents.

The second panelist, Dr. James Lu, M.D., Ph.D. is the Co-founder & Chief Science Officer at Helix. Dr. Lu is responsible for the scientific teams which includes bioinformatics, laboratory operations, regulatory, quality, translational research and policy teams.

The panelists wasted no time before delving into the panel, always being cognizant that the majority of their audience did not have a science background. The topics included an overview of NGS, the history of COVID-19, how COVID-19 strains differ from one another and how the strains evolve and travel differently, testing capabilities for the region, as well as other related issues.

Through the panel, it was clear that location in the San Diego region is a top choice for genomics companies and talent. Illumina was founded here 22 years ago and the region has essentially been the heart of genomics renaissance. Many well-established companies are here, as well as tons of startups. The company density paired with the talent pool from local colleges, makes this area a hotbed of genomic activity. There is an immense amount of opportunity that breeds exceptional employees and competitive hiring practices, forcing companies to constantly up their game. 20 years ago if you were a molecular biologist, you wouldn’t have thought of San Diego as a place to start or grow your career – now, the area is at the top of your list.

As this work is all-consuming, during all hours of the day for the last six months, Dr. Gary Schroth joked that he “couldn’t remember what he used to work on” before COVID. This panel made it very clear that the genomics industry in San Diego is at the forefront of COVID research. San Diego is a hotbed of activity and a great place to start or grow your career in life science.



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: Retail likely to rebound in June

San Diego’s May employment report roundly beat expectations. Against all odds, the region recovered 18,200 jobs lost during COVID-19. While this represents less than 10 percent of the 223,700 payrolls lost from February to April 2020, it’s still a promising sign that the local job market has turned the corner. Eating and drinking establishments, ambulatory healthcare, and construction each saw impressive rebounds in May 2020. Conspicuously absent from last month’s turnaround, however, was retail.

Clothing stores alone have accounted for more than a third of all retail-based layoffs, and nearly two in every three clothing store workers were let go from February to May. That is even more severe than the losses suffered by restaurants and bars, which cut nearly half of their staffs during the COVID outbreak.

Since February, retail jobs lost have totaled 24,000, with 300 workers let go in May. While May’s retail job losses aren’t alarming in the context of COVID, it indicates that the industry is yet to initiate a recovery.


Nascent signs are emerging that retail’s long-awaited rebound moment has come. Locally, many shops reopened their doors to customers in June with modified social distancing protocols in place. This is similar to other parts of the country last month, leading to May’s record 17.7 percent jump in U.S. retail sales. Now that San Diego retailers have also reopened, it’s not unreasonable to assume a bounce back similar to May’s national retail sales figure could emerge locally in June.

An impact analysis that links local retail sales to employment suggests that if the same trends in the U.S. retail sales report were to play out here, we could expect a little more than 6,000 of the 24,000 retail jobs lost between February and May to be recovered in June alone. Sales at U.S. clothing stores rebounded an astonishing 188 percent in May. A similar spike in sales receipts in San Diego would be consistent with a June recovery of roughly 3,000—or two in five—of the 8,200 jobs lost at clothing stores from February to May. That is even more impressive than May’s 15 percent jobs rebound at eating and drinking establishments, and would bring the retail recovery more in line with other industries after a false start of sorts last month.

While this analysis is in line with the broader national trend, there are several caveats to consider.

First, the above only looks at one data point, which is a national sales report that may not reflect all of the idiosyncrasies of the San Diego retail industry. Additional data in the coming weeks, including June’s U.S. jobs report, will allow us to refine the estimates above.

Second, the 17.7 percent jump in U.S. retail sales reflects a weighted average of different—and potentially conflicting—regional trends. In other words, May’s rebound in retail sales may have been even stronger in newly reopened parts of the country than the topline figure of 17.7 percent would suggest. That is because the sales bump in those regions would have had to more than make up for steady or falling sales in other states like New York and California that hadn’t yet fully reopened.

Finally, any recovery could prove to be a false positive if thresholds are triggered that cause local, county, or state officials to pause or even walk back reopening.

Taken together, barring a spike in COVID cases, it looks like retail will finally join in the recovery. June’s employment report, which is due to be released on July 17, should ultimately confirm this. We’ll be reporting back on the health of retail and other industries as more data become available.

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 jobs report for May might not be as bad as initially feared

  • EDC projects SD unemployment to peak at around 16 percent in May, far less than externally produced estimates of 30 percent or more
  • While the U.S. recovered jobs in May, gains are most likely concentrated in states and cities that have reopened ahead of California
  • SD job growth will resume in the Summer months but could level off in the Fall until a vaccine is widely available

May’s employment picture might not be as bad as initially feared. A couple of weeks ago, we published a report that stated the May job cuts in San Diego could potentially be on par with the extraordinary losses suffered in April’s employment report. Those numbers were based on estimates for local retail sales along with city and county unemployment rates that were produced externally. While the estimates for more than a 50 percent decline in retail sales from February to May don’t seem unreasonable, it appears that the May unemployment rate projection of 30 percent or higher is well above the official rate to be reported by the Labor Department on June 19.


San Diego unemployment correlates closely with California continuing unemployment insurance (“UI”) claims. Continuing UI claims in California averaged about 2.9 million in May—above the 2.6 million registered in April, but certainly not enough to double unemployment across the state, including San Diego. EDC estimates that May unemployment in the region will be reported at closer to 16 percent, up from 15 percent in April and nearly half the rate estimated earlier during the pandemic.

EDC’s much lower unemployment projection is supported by incoming state and national data. For instance, the U.S. unemployment rate was reported as 13.3 percent in May, down from 14.7 percent in April. San Diego unemployment has differed from the national rate at times, but the probability that San Diego unemployment would have settled at a level at or above 30 percent given the lower national figure is, in essence, a statistical impossibility.

Additionally, the ADP national employment report showed that small business job losses slowed considerably in May from April. Small businesses employ 45 percent of the San Diego workforce, compared with just 29 percent nationally, suggesting that layoffs have abated for a wider swath of the local labor force than for the U.S. as a whole.

Taken together, the May jobs report for San Diego is anticipated to show an additional 10,000 to 15,000 job losses. While it would have been unfathomable to cheer on such a report just a few months ago, it is far less than the 150,000 to 175,000 job cuts implied by the 30 percent unemployment estimates produced earlier and also strongly suggests that the worst of the COVID slowdown has passed.


The May job cuts projected by EDC for San Diego may seem to contradict the official U.S. job figures released last Friday that showed 2.5 million job gains and a lower unemployment rate. However, the gains in the national report almost certainly reflect jobs that were recovered in states and cities that reopened ahead of California. San Diego has moved to reopen somewhat faster than other areas of the state. Even so, it would be surprising if local job growth is registered ahead of the June employment report, because the May employment figures were estimated on data received during the week of May 12, before local businesses began to reopen.


Barring a second wave of COVID-19, employment in San Diego is expected to start climbing again in June, but the region is unlikely to recoup the jobs lost since February for quite some time. Businesses will call back a sizable portion of their workers as they reopen, but a return to normal for the local job market won’t take hold until after a vaccine has been made widely available. After an initial bump in the summer months, job growth will likely continue at a much more measured pace until consumers begin to feel comfortable venturing out into larger crowds and businesses can once again operate at full capacity—something that most likely will not happen before 2021.

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: More disappointing numbers to come, but the worst is likely behind us

We’ve seen and heard the unemployment numbers. But what does all of this really mean for our economic recovery in San Diego? Welcome to the ‘economy in crisis’ series – a bi-weekly breakdown of data at the national, state, and local level in the shadows of COVID-19.


As expected, April’s jobs report was one for the record books. San Diego lost some 195,000 jobs, with especially steep cuts seen in accommodation & food services and retail as stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 essentially halted foot traffic to local restaurants, bars, music venues, and shops. Unemployment hit a historically high rate of 15 percent. March’s numbers were revised lower to reveal 10,400 fewer payroll jobs, bringing the total number of losses to 205,400 compared with the initial March estimates and roughly in line with our call for losses of about 230,000 jobs last month.

The April jobs report only measured employment as of the week of April 12, which means any additional job losses during the second half of April and first half of this month won’t be picked up until the May employment report due on June 19. Weekly unemployment estimates from Applied Geographic Solutions (AGS) indicate that unemployment in San Diego County may have been as high as 30.1 percent for the week ending May 9, with some zip codes in and around downtown potentially experiencing jobless rates of more than 40 percent. This is well above the U.S. estimate of 22.75 percent provided by AGS and implies that the May report could show an additional 10 to 15 percentage point climb in the unemployment rate from April.

Weekly retail sales estimates compiled by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reveal a 43 percent reduction in receipts by San Diego retailers in April. Further, SANDAG anticipates a cumulative reduction in retail sales of more than 50 percent in May compared with pre-COVID sales levels—not an unreasonable assumption given the wide-ranging impact of stay-at home orders on retailers since March. If realized, the SANDAG retail sales forecast for May could mean another 70,000 to 75,000 job losses at retailers in the May employment report, even accounting for steady or growing receipts at supermarkets, bargain clubs, and drug stores. Taken together, if AGS’ unemployment estimates are accurate and SANDAG’s retail sales projections come to fruition, the May jobs report may reveal another round of record-breaking job losses similar to those reported for April.


But there’s some good news: the worst has likely passed. With the City and County moving to gradually reopen the economy, businesses that have been able to hold on this long will likely be able to make it to the other side without having to initiate additional mass layoffs, at least not on the scale seen so far. The pace of initial jobless claims in California remains elevated but has slowed considerably. Now the focus will be on assessing continuing jobless claims, since those will indicate how many people have been able to get back to work.

The next great hurdle will be replacing lost jobs, especially for workers whose former employers were forced to shut down in the wake of the outbreak. This will require a balance between new businesses forming and targeted worker training programs to help connect people who are out of work with companies in higher-paying, more stable fields who are struggling to source employees. It could take several years before San Diego businesses lost during the COVID crisis are replaced, and worker retraining could get the workforce back on track much more quickly.

Of course, this would require public funding, which is scarce after several waves of fiscal stimulus. However, it would likely cost less to train employees and get them back into the workforce quickly than the amount of foregone income tax revenues, additional unemployment expenditures and longer-term government welfare programs that would be required as they wait for positions in their pre-COVID fields to open back up. Additionally, it is in the region’s best interest to get people back to work as quickly as possible, because job skills erode quickly as workers remain out of the workforce, which dramatically lowers their odds of ever re-entering the job market.


As a partner of the local San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center, EDC is working directly with small businesses – free of charge – to counsel them on accessing COVID-19 recovery resources.

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For general COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please view this page.

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4 resources for San Diego small businesses – May 21, 2020

With so many relief and recovery programs launching every day, it can be difficult to figure out which ones your business should prioritize. In addition to financial resources for San Diego businesses and residents that we’ve compiled here, here are four recovery resources you should know about. 

1. Connect with your customers online via GoSite

Local digital software suite provider GoSite is helping small businesses connect with their customers online with a free website and payment method. Click here to learn more.

2. Reopening guides for San Diego’s restaurants, retailers, & small businesses

San Diego Regional EDC convened a broad coalition to develop step-by-step guides to help local businesses reopen. These guides have been tested in focus groups, and align with local, state and national guidance. EDC recognizes that in order to get to a point where reopening guides such as these are useful, other issues, like childcare, must be addressed first. Download your guide here.

3. SDGE late payment fee waivers

SDG&E will waive late payment fees for business customers whose finances have been hit hard. The company also urges customers who are struggling to pay their utility bill due to financial hardships stemming from the coronavirus to call its Customer Contact Center at 1-800-411-7343 to make payment arrangements. Click here to learn more.

4. Rady School business recovery coalition

The Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego will help businesses in the San Diego region navigate the unprecedented challenges faced by COVID-19. Drawing on expertise from the UC San Diego community, Rady will provide immediate pro bono assistance to businesses, including PPP loan forgiveness application templates, risk evaluation, and other guidance. Apply here.

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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Reopening San Diego’s small businesses [free guides]

San Diego Regional EDC, in partnerships with San Diego and Imperial SBDC, have commissioned a broad team to develop detailed guides to help small businesses reopen – in advance of San Diego’s announced phase 2 reopenings. The guides align with current local (San Diego County), state, and national guidance, were developed in collaboration with various regional task forces, and have been tested in focus groups by local businesses.

Small businesses are the backbone of our region’s economy, and employ the majority of San Diegans. In order to meet our regional goal of creating 50,000 quality jobs in small businesses by 2030, we all need to invest in ensuring small businesses have the tools they need to recover, adapt, and thrive over the coming months. Funding, technical assistance, and childcare for working parents are also important to the long term recovery and resiliency of San Diego’s small businesses.

For more tools to help distribute the guides, contact Heather Dewis at Let’s get San Diego back to work. 

Download the free Small Business guides

Additional Small Business resources

For more business resources, including information about relief programs, visit our COVID-19 resource page.

If you’re a small business that is looking for direct counseling, please request EDC’s support here.

Other articles you might be interested in:

Mark Cafferty: Recovery through an inclusive lens

This column originally ran in the San Diego Business Journal on May 17, 2020:

I hope this message continues to find you and your families healthy and safe. Our team at EDC continues to work from home and we are focusing all of our time and energy on helping local small businesses get connected to the resources and services they need during these confusing and challenging times.

Over the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to serve on the RECOVER economic recovery advisory group formed by County Supervisor Greg Cox and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The group was brought together to form a regional plan for reopening businesses and setting up appropriate communication channels with the business community. The group was comprised of several chambers of commerce, business and trade associations, economic development organizations, and education and labor groups. The hope going forward is that our collective reach will continue to provide our local government officials with quick and accurate feedback from a broad section of our business community as we navigate the various stages of economic recovery.  The guidelines that the group developed are posted here and can also be found on the City and County’s websites.

In a closing memo that I wrote to Mayor Faulconer and Supervisor Cox, I urged the City and the County—and all advisory group members—to continue to host and maintain similar discussions for regional businesses focused on childcare and the reopening of schools.

Clearly, a large segment of our workforce will not be able to return to employment with any level of normalcy while their children are still home with no prospect of school, summer school/camps, and childcare. Our partners at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Workforce Partnership have already been focused heavily on childcare over the last few years. They are continuing the difficult job of working with childcare providers and businesses to ensure that we are not having these conversations or planning in vacuums.

Our team at EDC and more than 30 community partners have spent the last two years trying to create inclusive economic development strategies to ensure that more of our community members can thrive within our local economy. One of our three pillars has been addressing the growing educational achievement gap. We have been working to ensure that businesses are more engaged with this issue. Now more than ever, we feel that getting business and education leaders together to think through how we effectively reopen our schools and support each other through the difficult months ahead is one of the most critical issues we face. Our team at EDC will do everything we possibly can to continue to facilitate these discussions, push for solutions and set up communication systems to help maintain ongoing progress and success to ensure that we phase back into work-based and school-based activities in a coordinated fashion.

And finally, the impacts of this horrific healthcare and economic crisis have not hit our community (or our nation) evenly. African American, Asian, and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, and they have also been disproportionately impacted by the layoffs, business closures, school closures, and economic challenges our advisory group focused on. The locally-owned hospitality, retail, and restaurants have clearly been hit the hardest. Small and minority-owned businesses are in the most need of financial support and will continue to need our attention, our resources, and our services as we work our way through recovery. I urged the Mayor, City Council, and County Board of Supervisors—regardless of political party affiliation and the various segments of our community that they represent—to be visibly united in ensuring that our economic recovery remains focused on the individuals, businesses, communities, and sectors of our economy that have been hardest hit.

I closed my memo by indicating that San Diego Regional EDC remains fully committed to ensuring that all of our resources, energy, and programs are focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of the economic recovery that lie ahead of us. I want to restate that commitment to all of you as well. We have to get this right.

A Record-Setting Jobs Report

Incoming data confirmed what most of us already knew: The U.S. economy lost a record number of jobs in April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the economy shed 20.5 million payroll jobs, lifting the unemployment rate to 14.7%, a rate unseen since the Great Depression. Job losses were spread across every industry, but cuts were especially severe in leisure & hospitality, which gave up some 7.7 million positions.

The BLS data are roughly consistent with payroll processor ADP’s employment report that shows 20.2 million job losses at private companies last month. Similar to the BLS, ADP reported that cuts were heavily concentrated in leisure & hospitality. ADP also measured employment changes across different firm sizes, and showed that companies employing fewer than 50 workers let go of 6 million workers in April.

What The U.S. Numbers Could Mean Locally

The crater in small business employment across the U.S. last month could portend an especially bad jobs report locally. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers employ 45% of San Diegans, compared with just 29% nationally. Job losses on the scale of the national figure would imply roughly 120,000 fewer payrolls at San Diego small businesses in April alone, roughly the same number of jobs lost across businesses of all sizes between December 2007 and January 2010 during the last recession.

Cutting the data across industries is equally disarming. Accommodation & food service companies employ about one in every 10 local workers. Both the BLS and ADP reports show that hospitality businesses essentially halved their staffs last month; a similar contraction in San Diego would translate to about 85,000 to 90,000 lost jobs. However, San Diego hospitality employment has historically been more sensitive to downturns than nationally, meaning as many as 120,000, or nearly two in three, hospitality workers may have potentially been put out of work.

Retail employment is also touchier to fluctuations in the local economy than it is nationally. San Diego retailers may have eliminated more than 25,000 payrolls based on the 2.1 million jobs cut across the U.S. last month.

The damage doesn’t end with hospitality and retail, although losses in other industries are not nearly on the same scale. The BLS reported 980,000 public sector job cuts, and local government, which employs public school teachers, accounted for 801,000 of those. Another industry with a large local footprint—professional and technical services—gave up 520,700 positions nationally. Together, an additional loss of around 15,000 local payrolls from these two sectors could be reasonably estimated based on historical relationships between local and national employment changes.

All in, San Diego is looking at a potential loss of about 230,000 jobs in April if history serves. This would be nearly double the losses suffered during the 2008-2009 crisis and could potentially bring the unemployment rate up to a range as high as 18% to 20%. The official April jobs numbers for San Diego will be reported on Friday, May 22.

Several points bear mentioning: First, the above discussion is only meant to provide a sense of scale around local job market impacts if similar dynamics seen in the national employment report were to play out here. Second, no sector or cluster is immune to downturns. So, while government and professional services haven’t yet experienced losses on the scale of accommodation & food services, there’s always a chance that the effects of COVID-19 could ripple out into these industries. Finally, while it may be encouraging that higher-paying professional and government positions haven’t given as much ground as lower-paying ones, the disproportionate pain experienced by the most vulnerable workers should give us pause.

The coming recovery presents an opportunity to establish career development programs designed to connect lower-paid workers with jobs in industries that are struggling to attract talent. EDC’s Advancing San Diego program – which is currently recruiting local educational providers that develop skilled engineering talent – is helping San Diego inch closer to its goal of producing 20k additional skilled workers per year.  Programs like this are a win-win situation that promises a brighter future for thousands of San Diegans and a more resilient economy that could better weather future downturns.


As a partner of the local San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center, EDC is working directly with small businesses  – free of charge – to counsel them on accessing COVID-19 recovery resources.

Request EDC assistance

For general COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please view this page.

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