Economy in crisis: SD housing market advances, but geographic differences remain

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Despite ongoing economic pressure, San Diego home values and rents reached new peaks in October.
  1. Home prices and rents are highest along the coast, but price increases have been most pronounced in more rural, inland areas of the county.
  1. Areas in the county with the highest unemployment rate tend to have the lowest cost of living, however prices are increasing quickest in those areas.

San Diego home prices and rents continued to rise in October, despite the ongoing economic pressures presented by Covid-19 and efforts to contain the virus. According to Zillow, the median value of a middle-tier home advanced 1.6 percent from September to reach a new peak of $649,474*, up 7.3 percent from February and up 9.5 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, average rents reached $2,363, also a fresh high, up 1.4 percent from February and 2.1 percent from a year earlier.

San Diego home prices and rents are both growing faster than other large California metro areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, as well as the U.S. average. Even so, San Diego’s record-breaking house prices and rents are not unique. Of the 914 metropolitan and micropolitan regions covered, Zillow reported new home price peaks in 645 (71 percent) of them, and rents are topping out in 88 percent of 107 regions tracked by the real estate company.

San Diego home values are high, and they’re rising at an accelerated pace.

 

Rent increases have slowed but continue to climb faster than the U.S. and other California metros.

Sub-regional look presents an interesting picture

Housing price appreciation has been most pronounced in largely rural areas. Jacumba home values have surged by more than 23 percent over the past year, while prices in Ranchita, Tecate, and Warner Springs are all up between 18 and 19 percent. Yet, the median price for a home in Downtown has inched higher by a much less impressive 2.7 percent year-over-year.

A similar trend plays out when looking at rental values within the county. Rents in Ramona have jetted 15.8 percent higher over the past year, while Escondido rents are up some 6.5 percent. Coincidentally, rents have fallen in more central locations like University City, Carmel Valley, and Downtown.

Generally speaking, housing price appreciation and rental increases are most pronounced in areas where prices and rents are relatively low. This could reflect a natural migration out and away from the City of San Diego as buyers are seeking out price deals in more affordable, inland areas. This is especially true as those who are able to work from home no longer have to weigh as heavily the idea of a longer commute when deciding where to buy.

Also worth noting, is that home values and rental prices coincide with economic outcomes in these areas. For example, in Solana Beach, the median home price is more than $1.5 million, and the unemployment rate is just 4.2 percent—well below the county rate of 7.7 percent. By contrast, the median home price is $480,349 in National City, where unemployment is stuck at 11.5 percent. Similarly, rents are topping out at nearly $3,300 per month in low-unemployment Solana Beach, while renters are paying just over $1,800 per month in El Cajon where the jobless rate hovers at 11.4 percent.

The map below clearly shows how home prices and rents are growing in areas where properties are cheaper. Those regions are also the pockets of the county where joblessness is rampant.

Select between home prices, rents, and unemployment below using the ‘Metric’ dropdown, and choose between Level and YoY % change in the ‘Transformation’ dropdown to explore more.

ARE POORER SAN DIEGANS BEING PRICED OUT?

The relationship between home values (an indicator of how much workers in an area can afford) and labor market outcomes during the Covid-19 downturn shines a harsh light on the economic disparities affecting San Diegans with different socioeconomic backgrounds. Workers in areas where home values and rents are lower are far and away more likely to be without a job as Covid-related restrictions force business closures throughout the county.

This relationship statistically significant, offering up yet another piece of hard evidence that the most recent recession has disproportionately hurt poorer people.

What’s worse is that the torrid pace of price growth for homes and rental properties in higher-unemployment regions may force the most vulnerable San Diegans out of those areas as prices become unaffordable. This would exacerbate an already-troubling trend that has pushed more people out of the region than into it over the past decade.

Now, more than ever, we need to analyze our options and develop policies that help to prevent San Diegans from being priced out of the region. Cultivating and retaining a strong local workforce isn’t just about maintaining San Diego’s identity, it’s also about creating a stronger, more resilient region in coming years that will be better able to withstand the inevitable next downturn. Go here to learn more about how EDC is working to ensure San Diego gets this recovery right.

*Due to availability of data and varying sources, these numbers differ slightly from others we’ve recently posted.

Nate Kelley
Nate Kelley

Senior Manager, Research

San Diego’s Economic Pulse: November 2020

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

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. San Diego’s jobs recovery accelerated in October from previous months, but remains uneven across industries.
  1. San Diego employers brought back 21,500 workers, lowering the unemployment rate from 8.9 percent to 7.7 percent.
  1. Job gains were widespread, and workers returned to the labor force in record numbers.

San Diego’s job market recovered a healthy 21,500 jobs in October from the month prior. Job gains pushed the unemployment rate lower by 1.2 percentage points, from a revised 8.9 percent (initially reported as 9.0 percent) to 7.7 percent. This is in spite of a huge increase in the labor force, which welcomed back some 55,800 workers in October from September.

The topline numbers are encouraging, and last month’s jobs build shows that San Diego has recovered just more than half (52.4 percent) of the 223,700 payroll jobs lost between February and April as the COVID-19 outbreak forced state and county officials to shut down many sectors of the economy. That said, employment remains 7.0 percent lower than it was a year prior, and the jobless rate is still 4.5 percentage points higher than the 3.2 percent logged in February.

MOST INDUSTRIES CONTRIBUTE TO GAINS

Most industries reported job additions last month, with gains concentrated in business and professional services (+5,200 jobs) and construction (+4,100 jobs). Leisure and hospitality and retail, both of which were disproportionately hurt by COVID-related shutdowns, added back 3,200 and 2,100 jobs, respectively. Restaurants brought back 2,400 workers, making up the vast majority of gains in leisure and hospitality. Local government, which includes public school teachers and administrators, brought back 2,700 workers, while state agencies added 2,500 to payrolls last month.

Nonetheless, several sectors shed jobs, providing a partial offset to an otherwise upbeat employment report. Wholesalers let go of 1,200 workers, while federal government agencies, manufacturers, and other service providers laid off a combined 1,500 people.

The recovery across industries has been far from homogenous. Federal government agencies and builders have recovered all of their lost jobs, and then some. Other industries, like utilities and mining and logging, never lost jobs to begin with. Meanwhile, business and professional services are within striking distance of February’s pre-COVID employment peak. Still others, like wholesale trade and information, have only made a tiny dent in their respective jobs recoveries.

REGIONAL VIEW

Similar to industries, unemployment varies considerably across the county’s 25 cities. For instance, the jobless rate in Solana Beach stands at just 4.2 percent, whereas the rate is perched at a stubbornly high 14.3 percent in Bostonia. The rate for the City of San Diego was 7.4 percent last month, consistent with the 7.7 percent rate logged for the county.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

At least several items stand out in the latest employment report.

October’s torrid labor force gains are both impressive and a relief. After an unsettling exodus of 45,100 workers in March and April, the civilian labor force hovered roughly 3 percent lower than its February peak in August and September.

Three percent may not sound like a lot on the surface, but it can have tangible impacts in a number of ways. First, a contracting labor force has the effect of lowering the unemployment rate. That’s because people are no longer counted as unemployed once they leave the labor force. This can have the secondary effect of making the jobs recovery seem stronger than it really is, which can distort business decisions. Second, research suggests that regional economies with smaller labor forces relative to the size of their populations tend to suffer more frequent and more severe downturns in the face of economic shocks. Finally, a shrinking labor force can raise labor costs—already the largest single expense item on most companies’ balance sheets—as firms are forced to compete for a smaller number of job applicants. So, last month’s bounce in the labor force, which easily more than undid the outflow of workers earlier in the pandemic, is a welcome sign, if sustained in coming months.

Another item bears interest, but is somewhat less sanguine. Activity has rebounded for San Diego’s hotels since the spring and summer, yet employment hasn’t followed suit. Both supply and demand for hotel rooms across the county have increased markedly from lows recorded in March and April, and average daily rates being charged for these rooms have climbed more than 50 percent during that time.

Still, accommodations employment is 38.5 percent lower than it was in February and 40.6 percent lower than it was in October 2019. It remains to be seen whether this reflects extra caution on the part of hotel owners, making sure that the risk of future shutdowns has dissipated before bringing workers back, or if it indicates a structural shift in the business model that has permanently reduced the need for employees.

WRAPPING IT UP

As mentioned, last month’s employment report is encouraging for a number of reasons. San Diego’s jobs recovery has thus far outpaced the rest of the state’s, including the broader Southern California region. However, San Diego’s recovery has lagged that of the nation.

Given the current dynamics, it would take San Diego slightly longer to recover all of the jobs lost from COVID than the U.S. as a whole. If the average pace of job growth from April through October were extended outward, the U.S. would recover all of its lost jobs by February 2021 versus April 2021 for San Diego. Of course, a number of factors could—and likely will—affect this relationship, including the emergence of an effective vaccine and an alarming number of new cases across a broader swath of the nation.

Regardless of the timing, San Diego’s job market continues to heal. Not only are the employment report details mostly encouraging, but efforts are underway to ensure that the recovery reaches a broader group of San Diegans. While the pain of the COVID downturn has been acute, there has arguably never been a better time to concentrate on rebuilding a stronger and more inclusive economy in the future.

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

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

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: October 2020

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

Key Takeaways

  1. Unemployment falls to 9.0 percent.
  1. Long-term unemployment continues to increase.
  1. Investments in workforce development and retraining become increasingly more important.

Labor Market Overview

The region’s unemployment rate was 9.0 percent in September down from a revised 9.5 percent in August 2020, and still three times above the year-ago estimate of 2.9 percent. Unemployment continues to increase in San Diego’s unincorporated and low income areas, while falling in wealthier areas. The highest unemployment area in the region was Bostonia at 16.5 percent and the lowest was Solana Beach at 5.0 percent.

The region’s unemployment rate remains lower than California’s unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, but higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent.

 

Looking at monthly employment, total nonfarm employment increased by 11,700 in September. Government accounted for the largest monthly gains, adding 6,800 jobs last month, primarily concentrated in local government education (up 5,300 jobs). Even so, compared to a year ago, local government education is still down 11,700 jobs. Leisure and hospitality followed with an increase of 2,500 jobs. Job gains were driven by accommodation and food services, which added 3,200 jobs. These gains were offset by a loss of 700 jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation. Educational and health services increase this month, adding 2,400 jobs.

Compared to a year ago, San Diego nonfarm employment remains down 117,700 jobs, or 7.8 percent. Leisure and hospitality represents the largest share, down 52,400 jobs. Accommodation is down 14,000 jobs over the year, and bars and restaurants are down 24,400.

 

Long-Term Unemployment Continues to Increase

Long-term unemployment has increased substantially during the past few months of the pandemic, though it remains significantly lower than the peak experience in the Great Recession of 2007-2009. In September, the number of unemployed persons in the U.S. who were jobless for 27 weeks or more increased by 781,000 to 2.4 million. During the Great Recession, the highest rate of long-term unemployment was 6.8 million in April 2010.

Long-term joblessness can have a significant impact on workers’ future career prospects. If out of work long enough, skills become outdated. Moreover, long-term unemployed workers often face continual earnings losses, earnings volatility, and more frequent unemployment throughout their careers. Finally, long-term joblessness greatly increases the risk of workers leaving the workforce altogether, which can have lasting economic impacts.

Workforce development and retraining are becoming increasingly more important, especially as more workers face long-term unemployment. Jobs currently in high demand include software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers, registered nurses, and retail salespersons and supervisors, which had the highest total job postings in September. While the hiring of retail might be a good sign, this may be due to the reopenings of stores and retail which will eventual level off. The top in-demand skills include merchandising, auditing, accounting, and selling techniques. Working to adjust these skills to the changing work environment is essential. Read more about workforce development and retraining, and how EDC is playing a part.

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

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

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

KEY TAKEAWAYS

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

THE SNAG

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

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

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

WHY IT MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: September 2020

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

Key Takeaways

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

Unemployment Drops

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

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

Employment Bounces Back

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

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

Sector Employment Gradually Returning

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

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

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

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

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

Recovery Must Focus on Low-Wage Workers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

THE TAKEAWAYS…

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

HOUSING STILL ON A TEAR

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

WHY HOUSING HASN’T FALTERED

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE REPERCUSSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE KEY TAKEAWAYS…

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

SAN DIEGO TOURISM ON THE UPSWING

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

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

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

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

SAN DIEGO FACES AN UNEVEN RECOVERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Request EDC assistance

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: August 2020

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

Unemployment Slightly Lower

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

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

Employment Continues to Decline

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

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

Sector Employment Split on Gains

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

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

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

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

A Long Road to Recovery

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

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

 

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

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

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Economy in crisis: Fresh thinking on career advancement is needed

THE TAKEAWAYS

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

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

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

THE MOST VULNERABLE HAVE BECOME THE MOST VULNERABLE…AGAIN

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

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

TAPPING INTO NEW TALENT

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

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

SO, WHAT’S THE CATCH?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Economy in crisis: July jobs report likely to be overhyped

THE TAKEAWAYS

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

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

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

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

TOURISM FORGES AHEAD…

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

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

…BUT…

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

 

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

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

Request EDC assistance

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