Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers October 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego establishments added a whopping 27,500 payroll positions to the region in October. This is the largest month-ago increase since February 2021, just after COVID vaccines were rolled out in the United States.
Professional and Business Services continues to be a driver of job growth in the region, adding 6,500 positions in October, now up 11,000 compared to a year ago. Firms in this sector tend to offer high-paying, quality jobs that have profound impacts on our region.
Tech firms saw a flood of venture capital funding with more than $766 million in October alone. Deployment of these funds over the next several years will likely lead to job growth in high-paying occupations across the San Diego region.
Job growth surges
San Diego employers added 27,500 jobs to the region from September to October 2021, nudging the unemployment rate lower by 0.3 percentage points from a revised 5.6 percent in September to 5.3 percent in October. Taking into consideration that the labor force also grew by 16,100 over the same period, this is great news for our region as we continue to take strides toward a full recovery. Compared to October 2020, total employment grew by 61,700 jobs and labor force participation increased by 12,100.
Professional and Business Services had the largest absolute job growth between in October, adding 6,500 payroll positions to our region. While Administrative and Support Services was the main driver of this growth—adding 3,800 jobs—Professional, Scientific, and Technical (PST) Services was not far behind with 2,600 positions added. The steady growth of PST Services reflects the influx of venture capital funding into Tech and Life Sciences firms in the region, as San Diego continues to cultivate high-paying jobs in innovation industries.
Employment growth in Leisure and Hospitality was second-highest with respect to jobs added, tacking on an additional 5,400 positions between September and October. Food Services and Drinking Places was responsible for a majority of this growth, bringing on 4,400 jobs.
Strikingly, there were no jobs losses in any of the supersectors tracked in the monthly employment report, which can be viewed in the interactive graphic below.
Funding home-made solutions
San Diego has experienced a phenomenal year for venture capital funding, with local companies pulling in close to $6.5 billion between Q1 and Q3 of this year. So far, Q4 has continued this trend as companies in the San Diego region raked in more than $1.3 billion in October alone. Although Life Sciences companies have attracted the lion’s share of funding in 2021, October bucked this trend as Tech companies attracted VC funding exceeding $766 million—more than quadruple that of Life Sciences companies in the region. Of the 17 deals that occurred in October, two broke the $100 million mark: local unicorns ClickUp and Flock Freight.
Pulling in $400 million in Series C funding was ClickUp, a software and app developer that creates productivity-enhancing technology that relocated here from the Bay Area in 2019. What sets ClickUp apart is the integration of a wide variety of services within one platform, from project management to marketing. With the new funding, ClickUp has reached a valuation of $4 billion, and plans to add 1,000 jobs by 2024 (job board here). This growth will more than double its existing workforce of 700, most of which are in San Diego.
Headquartered in Encinitas, Flock Freight hauled in $215 million in Series D funding in October, pushing its total valuation upwards of $1 billion. Supply chain disruptions are impacting everyone, and Flock Freight is helping to relieve the bottlenecks by helping to fill the trucks already on the road. Akin to ridesharing for trucking logistics, Flock Freight helps companies reduce their own costs by pooling together shipments from multiple businesses into fewer trucks, leveraging predictive algorithms to find the cheapest and quickest route to transport goods. Freight Flock not only saves hard costs, but also minimizes the negative externalities associated with trucking logistics, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 percent. (Plus, they’re hiring!)
San Diego’s innovation cluster is key, not only for getting this recovery right, but also for the future competitiveness of San Diego. Jobs in innovation industries tend to be high-paying, quality jobs, and each job in the innovation cluster supports two jobs elsewhere in the economy. As the innovation cluster grows, so too will the rest of the economy. Ensuring that we have the talent necessary to fuel that growth has never been more important.
Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers September 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego establishments added a meager 3,600 payroll positions between August and September, all of which came from the public sector as teachers and school staff were brought back on.
The unemployment rate tumbled to 5.6 percent in September from August’s 6.6 percent. However, the improvement is out of step with the payroll job counts and may not withstand data revisions.
Inflation in San Diego has been running even hotter than the national average in recent months. However, fundamentals suggest price pressures will ease by next Spring.
A lackluster report
San Diego establishments added a meager 3,600 payroll positions between August and September, all of which came from the public sector as teachers and school staff were brought back on. A build of 9,500 government positions was partially offset by the loss of 5,900 private-sector jobs. Losses in Other Services—which include gyms and salons—gave up 1,800 positions, followed by a loss of 1,500 in Leisure and Hospitality, potentially spotlighting the impacts of the Delta and Mu COVID-19 variants on the job market.
While the employment report is typically referenced as a single data point, it is actually an agglomeration of two separate surveys: (1) the establishment survey, which is used to measure the number of payroll jobs gained or lost in a given month, and (2) the household survey that provides information on the labor force and is used to calculate the unemployment rate. Typically, these two surveys line up pretty well, but last month was an exception. The separate household survey revealed that the jobless rate dropped a full percentage point from 6.6 percent in August to a post-pandemic low of 5.6 percent last month. That said, the improvement is out of step with the payroll jobs count and relies on a much smaller sample size. As such, last month’s decline in unemployment may not withstand revisions, and future reports may indicate a higher jobless rate in the region.
Inflation concerns are overinflated
The economy is dealing with an issue that it hasn’t had to in quite a while: inflation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that the widely watched consumer price index (CPI) increased 5.4 percent from September 2020 to September 2021, the fastest year-over-year rise since July 2007 to 2008. Closer to home, consumer prices in San Diego County rose at an even brisker 6.5 percent during that time, the second highest rate of inflation among a group of 12 metro areas reported for September behind only Riverside CA. Much of this can be attributed to a sharp rise in housing costs.
As of August, San Diego house prices were up 26 percent from a year ago, but this is due in large part to two phenomena: (1) lower mortgage rates, and (2) people taking advantage of lower house prices in East County. Mortgage rates are responsible for 70 percent of San Diego house price fluctuations, about double the national average. A brief rise in borrowing costs paused the climb in home values in the late Spring, but it will take a more convincing rise in rates to bring property values back to Earth. This should begin in early 2022 after the Federal Reserve starts to normalize monetary policy.
Wage growth presents the biggest hurdle to quelling inflation in the near term. According to Emsi, advertised salaries for open positions in San Diego were up 4.9 percent in September 2021 from a year earlier as employers hunt for scarce talent. For context, that rise was nearly double the average rate of 2.5 percent observed between 2010 and 2019 but about half the 9.7 percent increase observed in 2020. Given the deceleration from 2020, it would already appear that wage inflation pressures are subsiding.
It remains to be seen whether rising wages will be enough to bring people back to the workforce. More than 50,000 San Diegans are yet to return to the job market, and much of the increase in wages over the past year is attributable to a handful of industries that were struggling to source talent even before the pandemic. Finance and insurance companies are advertising salaries that are 21 percent higher than they were in September 2020, while information firms are paying 20 percent more to fill open positions. Yet salaries for Accommodation and Food Services positions are only up three percent.
One in four positions to be recovered in the region are in Accommodation and Food Services, so it could take a more convincing pay boost to bring people back. While this would immediately lead to more wage inflation, it would alleviate inflation in the medium to long term, since an influx of workers would reduce the need for companies to bid up wages.
Taken together, fundamentals suggest that inflation will subside in coming months. The big question is whether people will return to the job market. The combination of rising wages, falling COVID-19 case numbers, and kids returning to the classroom should spur more folks to come back to work. However, as has been the case since March 2020, it will be the virus that dictates how these events unfold. Any rise in San Diego’s COVID-19 numbers could keep people away from jobs that require close personal contact, and this will hurt companies in service industries that pay lower wages and typically don’t provide health benefits the most.
Every quarter San Diego Regional EDC analyzes key economic indicators that are important to understanding the regional economy and the region’s standing relative to the 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S.
EDC explains San Diego’s Q3 2021 economic data:
Key Findings from Q3 2021:
VENTURE CAPITAL: Life Sciences and Tech companies continue to shine. San Diego experienced another phenomenal quarter for VC, reaching $1.9 billion, an increase of $52 million compared to Q2, and $1.1 billion more than the same quarter last year. Life Sciences companies attracted almost $1 billion via 23 deals, with Genomatica pulling in $118 million alone. Twenty Tech companies brought in more than $940 million, with Shield AI and Wiliot attracting $410 million combined.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Demand for office and industrial space continues to climb. For the second quarter in a row, San Diego showed positive net absorption of office real estate, pushing vacancy rates down and rents up. The delivery of Amazon’s 3.4 million square-foot warehouse in Otay Mesa led to net absorption of more than 4.7 million square feet of industrial space, the strongest quarter on record.
EMPLOYMENT: San Diego continues to ride the wave of employment gains. Total nonfarm employment increased by 6,200 during Q3 and is up 51,300 compared to a year ago. However, gains were choppy across industries. Leisure and Hospitality led employment growth in Q3 with 7,900 jobs, as Accommodation and Food Services establishments continue to re-open and re-hire. Professional and Business services also had a positive quarter, adding 3,200 jobs to the region as venture funding fuels growth.
Welcome to the fourth edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed them, check out the March, May, and July editions.
Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.
To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, San Diego Regional EDC is surveying nearly 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment, and commercial real estate needs. (An index value >50 reflects expansion, and a value <50 reflects contraction. More information on the index and how it is calculated is available here.)
These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.
Here are three key findings from the fourth wave of surveying conducted in August 2021:
Life Sciences companies struggle to keep pace. Employers reported higher earnings and headcount but also increased difficulty attracting and retaining talent
Supply chain disruptions hurt business development. The more profound impact of prolonged supply chain issues may be on San Diego business operations not local consumers.
Remote work is driving companies to scale down office space. Life Sciences and Manufacturing are the exception, where rising sales and increased staffing will require companies to add space.
The BRI slid 8.4 points in August to settle at 55.3 after coming in at a solid 63.7 in June. August’s read suggests that the recovery could be slowing and reflects deteriorating views of present business conditions and slightly less upbeat expectations for the next six to 12 months.
All but two subindex values declined in August. The renewed challenges faced by businesses led many to temper their future expectations somewhat, though the expectations subindex remained comfortably in expansionary territory at 61.8. While companies still anticipate an improving local economy over the next six to 12 months, the economic expectations subindex for six months out fell 16.4 points from 83.2 in June to 66.8 in August. Meanwhile, the subindex for economic conditions 12 months out fell 15.3 points from an exuberant 92.0 to a more measured but still optimistic value of 76.7.
Life Sciences companies struggle to keep pace
Employers surveyed reported an acceleration in hiring; the first time the employment subindex moved into expansionary territory. While this is welcome news, employers also reported increased difficulty hiring new workers. Though much attention has been given to the suggestion that extended unemployment benefits are keeping the unemployed from returning to work, the data doesn’t seem to support it. In fact, many of the pre-pandemic hiring trends have persisted and the industries having the hardest time filling jobs are those that are high-skill and high-paying. There were more than 118,000 unique job postings across the region during the month of August. The top job posting industries fall into the Tech and Life Sciences clusters and the most posted occupation was Software Developer (yet again).
San Diego Life Sciences companies have been struggling to add talent fast enough. These companies have been at the forefront of developing treatments and producing medical devices aimed at combatting COVID-19. As such, they have grown rapidly, drawing more than $9 billion in venture capital funding since the pandemic began. While Life Sciences companies reported higher revenues, earnings and employment relative to before the pandemic began, they also report the greatest difficulties filling new positions, keeping their highly in-demand talent from competitors, and dealing with suppliers and vendors. Despite these challenges, most have great expectations for the year ahead, with plans for increasing staff, their physical footprint and remote work capabilities.
Supply chain disruptions hurt business development
One of the longest lasting impacts of the pandemic has been on global supply chains. Companies across the country remain light on inventory even as demand for goods from furniture and clothing to recreational goods and electric bicycles has jumped. In San Diego, consumer spending is now up 11 percent compared to February 2020 before any COVID-related shutdowns began. Many consumer goods are manufactured overseas, and as the Delta variant has spread in many parts of Asia, production has slowed or even halted. While supply chain disruptions may be affecting what San Diegans can buy and the prices they will pay, the more profound impact may be in what San Diego companies can sell and to whom.
Across all industries, San Diego companies noted continuing difficulties with managing suppliers and vendors. From Aerospace and Manufacturing to Software and Life Sciences, supply chain struggles have become more disruptive throughout the summer months. Upstream labor shortages have reduced production, port and travel delays led to late or canceled shipments, and the unavailability of microchips and plastics prevented companies from delivering finished goods and even services. This may help explain that while revenues and earnings are up, new business development is becoming increasingly difficult for companies surveyed, with the subsegment BRI falling sharply into contractionary territory of 36.1 in August from 51.7 in June.
These delays and disruptions not only hurt the companies that depend on raw materials and intermediate goods, they also directly impact the more than 54,000 people employed in San Diego’s Transportation and Logistics value chain. Furthermore, supply chain disruptions to San Diego companies hinders their ability to serve customers across the world. San Diego is a top 10 services-exporting metro, specializing in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services like Research and Development (R&D), Cybersecurity, Engineering, and Software. These industries have massive impacts on the local economy with each 100 direct jobs supporting 200 more elsewhere in the region.
Remote work is driving companies to scale down office space
After more than 18 months of remote work, with multiple fits and starts to get back into the office, many companies are coming to terms with some form of permanent remote work for their staff. The high levels of efficiency gains reported in the June survey has since subsided but remain net positive and strongly so. Employers are not necessarily looking to further expand their remote work capabilities or adopt new technologies for remote work, but many report a high desire among their workforce to maintain remote work options. Several reports from across the country and industry show that workers are primarily interested in flexible work arrangements that allow them to go into the office as needed while being able to manage their personal lives and avoid unnecessary commutes when possible. This flexibility is especially important to working parents facing unpredictable school and daycare disruptions as the Delta variant causes classrooms to temporarily shut down, sending their children back home.
With fewer workers in the office full time, more companies are making the decision to reduce their physical footprint. Many Technology and Software companies report difficulty justifying large, empty offices and thus plan to scale down significantly over the next year. Even companies in Education and Healthcare, that serve customers in-person, are moving back-office workers to either hybrid or fully remote work environments.
However, there are still companies looking to add space. These are mostly concentrated in Life Sciences and Manufacturing, where strong sales and increased hiring require more room to accommodate this growth. While many of these companies indicated plans to add office space, even more need industrial and lab space for R&D. Currently, there is almost 7.7 million square feet of industrial and flex space available and nearly 19 million square feet of office available across the region. The growing needs of companies suggests the balance may need to shift in the other direction.
Whether pharmaceuticals or beer, San Diego companies have long produced the things that make life more comfortable and more enjoyable. These companies also drive economic growth in our region. It is important that they have the assets they need, both in terms of physical infrastructure and skilled talent, to grow and thrive in San Diego.
Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit our research page.
Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers August 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego establishments added a less-than-stellar 5,300 jobs in August, undoing July’s seasonal loss. Gains were concentrated in Construction and Government as teachers and school staff were brought back onto payrolls in preparation for kids’ return to the classroom.
The unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent in August from July’s 6.9 percent. However, this was due to 11,800 people leaving the workforce, not job gains.
August’s employment report provides more evidence that emergency federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are not sidelining workers, contrary to popular belief. Yet the data do point to another potential reason: workers are refusing to return because of the risk of exposure to COVID amid low pay and no healthcare benefits.
San Diego companies added an underwhelming 5,300 jobs in August, while the exit of 11,800 workers lowered the unemployment rate to 6.6 percent from July’s 6.9 percent. August’s jobs build erases July’s loss, but the region still lags behind the national jobs recovery. Just over half of the jobs shed during the pandemic have been recovered locally, compared with about 80 percent nationwide.
Public agencies led the charge in August, adding 3,500 positions as teachers and school staff were brought back onto payrolls as kids prepared to return to the classroom. Construction came in at a close second, adding 3,400 jobs last month. However, Leisure and Hospitality, which has led job gains for nearly all of the recovery, added just 2,000 payrolls, potentially reflecting a change in preferences and attitudes among workers (more on that below). Transportation, Warehousing, and Professional and Business Services added another 600 jobs combined.
Gains in those industries were partially offset by losses in Other Services (gyms, salons, building and grounds maintenance, etc.), Finance, Wholesale Trade, Manufacturing, Retail, Healthcare, and private Educational Services.
Exposure, health insurance, and the jobs recovery
August’s employment report provides more evidence that UI benefits are not sidelining workers, contrary to popular belief. The line of thinking has been that an extra $300 per week in federal UI benefits is substantial enough for lower-paid workers in service industries to not return to the workforce. However, those emergency UI benefits terminate in early September, so the expectation would be for thousands of idle workers to return as the UI windfall is rolled off ahead of that.
To be sure, $300 per week amounts to just less than half of the gross pay received by workers in San Diego’s Leisure and Hospitality sector. Yet, Leisure and Hospitality establishments added a mere 2,000 net positions last month with another 33,200 jobs yet to be recovered.
The data may not support the notion that UI benefits are keeping workers home, but they do point to another potential reason: workers are refusing to return because of the risk of exposure to COVID amid low pay and no healthcare benefits. San Diego COVID cases, including the Delta and Mu variants, have fallen since peaking in mid-August, thanks to the County’s high vaccination rate, but they nonetheless remain higher than levels seen in May and June of this year. Many workers in lower-paying, public-facing positions may have therefore concluded that going back to work at $15 per hour isn’t worth the risk of exposure, even if it means forfeiting an extra $1,200 per month in federal UI benefits.
The San Diego region is yet to recoup 107,900 jobs lost during the pandemic, 60 percent of which are in industries that are either public-facing or have limited capacity for social distancing, such as Leisure and Hospitality, Retail, Education, and Manufacturing. However, most of these industries are closing in on pre-pandemic employment levels, while Leisure and Hospitality is not.
A combination of steady job growth and the rollout of health insurance mandates through the Affordable Care Act significantly reduced the number of uninsured San Diegans during the 2010s. Even with the expansion of insurance coverage, however, EDC estimates that anywhere from 11,000 to 17,000 people have been left without any health benefits since February 2020 as their jobs evaporated or they left the labor force.
Worse, many can’t even rely on getting jobs for health coverage. Nearly 10 percent of employed people in San Diego still lack any sort of health insurance; that number jumps to 16 percent for food preparation and serving-related positions at restaurants and bars and climbs as high as 29 percent for building and grounds maintenance positions. But those figures also include public insurance. Excluding public insurance options, some 54 percent of food prep workers and servers and 60 percent of building and grounds workers receive no health insurance through their employer or union.
Estimates for average hospital costs associated with COVID-19 treatment range from $30,000 to $50,000. A Kaiser Family Foundation study also found that 72 percent of major health insurance plans across the U.S. have already stopped full coverage of COVID-related treatments, and that will increase to 93 percent by year-end. Meanwhile, the average annual salary for food prep workers and servers in San Diego is $29,500. Hence, being infected by COVID or one of its variants could easily spell financial ruin for these workers even if they already have health coverage. Faced with those statistics, it would be more financially irresponsible to return to work than to stay home and wait out the recent spate of COVID infections.
Taken together, it’s safe to assume that many lower-paid service workers in public-facing jobs may not return anytime soon until the benefits clearly outweigh the risk. This puts low-margin local businesses in service industries in a precarious position: either lure workers back with higher pay and/or benefits and pass on the additional costs to customers, or run the risk of operating at less than 100 percent capacity, which would crimp revenues and also hurt bottom lines.
Regardless of the answer to that question, these data underscore the desperate need for more quality jobs in the area, particularly at smaller companies, if we ever hope to restore a sense of normalcy in the job market going forward. Humans may be creatures of habit, but large-scale economic displacement has a way of fundamentally altering our preferences and routines. The pandemic-fueled recession last year has almost certainly led workers to place greater importance on their personal safety and health than before, and employers will need to adapt in order to attract and retain talent.
Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers July 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego lost a net 7,800 payroll jobs in July, but this is largely due to seasonal fluctuations. Public and private educational services employment dropped by 16,200 as teachers and staff break for summer. Barring those losses, payrolls grew by 8,400, led by a build of 6,100 positions at Leisure and Hospitality establishments.
The unemployment rate ticked lower to 6.9 percent from June’s 7.0 percent even as an additional 16,100 workers joined or rejoined the labor force last month. The labor force has grown by more than 24,000 people since June, further debunking the assertion that workers are sidelining themselves amid extended emergency federal unemployment benefits.
Recent data on COVID cases have been flashing red, but there’s good reason to believe that San Diego will not suffer as badly as other regions across the country where fewer people have been fully vaccinated. Additionally, the data clearly support the idea that the region’s recovery hinges in large part on how many more San Diegans get the vaccine in the coming weeks.
San Diego establishments shed 7,800 jobs in July, primarily the result of seasonality. The vast majority of job losses came from public and private Educational Services as teachers and staff began summer break and durable goods Manufacturing as factories undergo annual retooling. As such, job losses in July are common and not unexpected, and it’s worth noting that last month’s losses were less severe than in prior years leading up to the pandemic.
Local Government Education (K-12 schools), State Government Education (colleges and universities), and private Educational Services gave up a combined 16,200 positions, leading the region’s losses for the month. Meanwhile, durable goods Manufacturing employment fell by 1,100.
On the bright side, Leisure and Hospitality continued to lead job growth, adding 6,100 jobs in July, followed by an additional 2,800 Construction jobs.
Notwithstanding last month’s minor setback, employment is up 4.5 percent from a year earlier, another positive indication that San Diego is restoring jobs lost during the COVID pandemic. In particular, Accommodation and Food Services employment, which was hit the hardest during the pandemic, has jumped 36.7 percent compared to July 2020.
What about COVID?
Recent headlines have focused largely on the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infections across the country, as the Delta variant spread through communities and mask mandates and business restrictions were relaxed over the summer. To be sure, the seven-day average for new cases in the U.S. spiked more than tenfold to 140,000 as of August 18 after settling at around just 11,000 to 12,000 new cases per day in the second half of June.
Cases in the San Diego region have also climbed significantly in recent weeks, although the story is more nuanced here. Vaccination has been a key asset to the region: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45.4 percent of all residents in San Diego County are fully vaccinated (have received at least two doses), placing the region in the 75th percentile for all counties in the United States. Vaccination does not provide 100 percent immunity to COVID-19 or its variants, but it does reduce the severity of symptoms, including the possibility of death. In fact, looking across all counties, the death rate is reduced by 0.1 percentage point for each additional five percent of the population that gets vaccinated. Put differently, for every 500 people who get vaccinated, another San Diego life can be saved.
So, even though the regional seven-day average has increased from just two cases per 100,000 residents in June to 38 new cases per 100,000 residents as of August 18, the death rate, at 1.1 percent, remains significantly lower than the U.S. (1.7 percent), California (1.5 percent), and the surrounding counties (1.6 percent to 2.3 percent). Moreover, despite the increase in cases, San Diego’s rate of 38 per 100,000 people still lies below the nation’s 43 case per 100,000 Americans.
The CDC releases county- and state-level COVID caseload forecasts based on models that account for local vaccination rates and assumptions surrounding social distancing, among other items. Similar to California as a whole, San Diego’s relatively high vaccination rate led the CDC to forecast an essentially flat trajectory for cases through mid-September. This is in fairly stark contrast to the projections for U.S. case numbers, which are expected to climb substantially over the next several weeks as unvaccinated populations become susceptible to the profusion of the Delta variant and are exposed to the virus as Main Street businesses reopen.
While another climb in COVID cases is less than ideal, San Diego should be able to emerge from the most recent wave better off than other regions where the local populations are not as widely vaccinated. This should help to mitigate the economic fallout here as residents rebuild the confidence to engage in public life again.
Even so, it is crucial that this analysis not be misconstrued as a reason to let our guard down. If anything, this analysis shows just how critical it is for everyone to get vaccinated to better protect ourselves and our economy. Increased vaccination will help to accelerate the region’s recovery while simultaneously reducing uncertainty around the COVID virus and its variants.
Welcome to the third edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed them, check out the March and May editions.
Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains, and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.
To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, EDC is surveying more than 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment and commercial real estate needs. (An index value >50 reflects expansion, and a value <50 reflects contraction. More information on the index and how it is calculated is available here.)
These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation, and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.
Here are three key findings from the third wave of surveying conducted in June 2021:
We are amid a great talent reshuffling. Businesses report increasing difficulty hiring and retaining talent, meanwhile the quits rate is at historic highs.
Supply chains remain knotted up. The strategic importance of our cross-border trade has never been clearer.
Space needs are in flux as companies prepare for return to office. Demand for office space may be waning, but life sciences companies are looking to add lab space.
San Diego County firms built on the enthusiasm expressed in April’s survey, with the BRI advancing from 58.9 in April to 63.7 in June. The topline index was pulled higher by more upbeat views of, both, present conditions and expectations for the future. The present conditions index segment rose from 56.1 in April to 59.3 in June while the expectations segment climbed from 65.4 to 73.9 during that time. Business respondents in the region confirmed several trends that have made headlines recently. Companies stated that business conditions have improved significantly over the past two months (due in no small part to California’s reopening in June) while also noting that sourcing talent and suppliers has become significantly more difficult.
A great talent reshuffling
Companies reported that revenues and earnings have improved since April and thus optimism over the next six to 12 months has increased. Expectations are also strong in San Diego’s Innovation cluster. Businesses in this group conveyed that they plan to hire more aggressively in the coming months. This is particularly good news, since each new Innovation job supports another two jobs elsewhere in the regional economy.
Nonetheless, companies also reported having a tougher time attracting new talent as well as increased difficulty retaining existing workers. There has been much ado about labor shortages and the impact of increased and extended unemployment benefits, but the data show that there is a much more nuanced story. First, there is a large mismatch between the talent in-demand and the talent available to work. As of May (most recently available data at time of writing), there were 104,400 people unemployed in the San Diego region and more than 115,000 job openings. However, the top hiring industries are Administrative and Support Services, Professional Services and Manufacturing industries (nearly 40 percent of unique postings), whereas the bulk of the unemployed come from Leisure and Hospitality.
Second, there are record numbers of workers quitting their jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the proportion of workers who voluntarily leave their job relative to total employment. This “quit rate” sat at 2.5 percent in May 2021 after falling from 2.8 percent in April—the highest ever recorded. The Conference Board survey’s labor market differential, another measure of views on whether jobs are plentiful or hard to get, vaulted from 36.9 in May 2021 to 43.5 in June. That is the highest level since 2000.
All this quitting not only reflects confidence in the availability of work, but also the changing needs and desires of workers. The San Diego Association of Governments surveyed both employers and employees earlier this year and found that only 36 percent of employers expect to have one or more employees working from home at least one day per week. Meanwhile 44 percent of employees surveyed expect to work from home an average of 1.2 days per week. This difference in expectations partly reflects differences in opinion of how remote work has impacted productivity—only nine percent of employers reported increased productivity during the pandemic versus 48 percent of employees.
Flexibility will be key to keeping and attracting the best and brightest of workers. Perhaps the companies EDC surveyed understand this better than most, as they indicated both improved efficiencies from, as well as increased planned future utilization of, remote work technologies in June compared to April.
Investing in supply chains locally, binationally
Hiring challenges are also impacting supply chains globally. Companies reported a sharp decrease in the accessibility and reliability of their suppliers and vendors. Here, BRI fell from 54.7 in April to a categorical low of 26.5 in June. This corroborates the headlines regarding shortages in lumber and microchips, which has in turn stalled production of higher end goods and led to spikes in commodity prices and other item such as used cars. A lot of these supply chain disruptions are temporary in nature, directly linked to safety measures and restrictions associated with pandemic (this is why longer-term inflation expectations remain stable).
Ports and businesses across the country have experienced ongoing shortages of labor, containers, truck chassis, and more; shipping vessels have been forced to wait in harbors, in some cases for more than two weeks. This global traffic jam has impacted schedule reliability so profoundly it has forced companies to revisit the ways in which they manage risk. Many companies have moved from a just-in-time strategy to just-in-case. This means firms now keep additional inventory on hand, anything from raw materials to the final product. The lack of supply and rising costs have disproportionately impacted small and mid-market suppliers and buyers. This has resulted in direct capital investment from smaller buyers into smaller suppliers to stabilize supply chains and build necessary redundancies.
The pandemic-induced constraint on the movement of goods has only exacerbated trends from the past few years. Trade wars, changing consumer behavior, and e-commerce were already disrupting global supply chains, all of which has highlighted the strategic importance of supply chain management as well as the region’s bi-national assets. The Cali Baja Binational Mega Region is already vertically integrated in Manufacturing, and a warehousing boom in Otay Mesa is increasing capacity for goods coming via land and sea. Cali Baja is an ideal location for companies that want to move operations closer to home but maintain a binational advantage. Continued investment in trade infrastructure, such as our ports of entry and direct route service, will further cement Cali Baja as a binational innovation hub.
The return to office will be in a lab
Back in April, companies indicated a modest desire to increase their physical footprint upon returning to the office. However, companies appear to be less sure as the return approaches. In June, companies expressed plans for a net reduction of space, but a deeper dive into the responses reveals that it is demand for office space that is waning. In fact, there is increasing demand for commercial space—life sciences companies in need of laboratory space. This reflects the influx of investment and rapid hiring we are seeing in these industries, as they lead the fight against the global pandemic. Fortunately, there is nearly 10 million square feet of industrial and flex space across San Diego County currently available for lease or purchase that could potentially accommodate this demand. Current hot spots include Sorrento Valley, Vista, and Otay Mesa; Downtown San Diego is also building capacity rapidly.
The headline story is a positive one for San Diego’s economy, but sentiment is far from identical across business sizes and industries. For example, small companies with fewer than 50 workers logged BRI of 53, which is modestly in expansionary territory, while companies with 250 or more employees measured an index value of 63.7. This makes sense, because San Diego’s Leisure and Hospitality businesses tend to be smaller establishments and were the hardest hit during the pandemic. While companies are enthusiastic to get back to full capacity and add workers, it will likely take a few more months for supply chains and the labor market to normalize again. The pandemic is a generational disruption with widespread ramifications, accelerating several trends already underway, including how and where people are willing to work.
Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit: sandiegobusiness.org/research.
Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers June 2021, with data on employment and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego establishments added a middling 5,700 net new payroll positions in June, although revisions uncovered an additional 1,000 jobs in May. Gains in Leisure and Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Healthcare were largely offset by losses in Government, Professional and Business Services, Education, and Finance.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped to seven percent from May’s 6.3 percent, according to a separate survey of household employment. However, this was driven in large part by 7,600 people either joining or rejoining the labor force last month, a positive sign for future growth.
Data suggest that enhanced unemployment benefits are not preventing workers from finding and taking jobs in San Diego.
San Diego establishments added a middling 5,700 net new positions in June, following a build of 3,000 (initially reported as +2,000) jobs in May. Leisure and Hospitality continued to lead gains with an additional 4,800 jobs last month, followed by Manufacturing (+2,000) and Healthcare and Social Assistance (+1,500). However, gains in those industries were largely offset by losses in Government (-1,600), Professional and Business Services (-800), Education (-500), and Finance (-500).
More surprisingly, the separate household survey indicated that the unemployment rate jumped from May’s 6.3 percent (initially reported as 6.4 percent) to seven percent in June. However, this was driven in large part by 7,600 people either joining or rejoining the labor force. This could prove to be a big positive for growth in the coming months, particularly since employers have been worried that there aren’t enough workers to fill open positions (more on that below).
The relatively ho-hum jobs report for last month may be a result of timing. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) surveys businesses and households during the week of the 12th of each month. However, California’s economy, including San Diego, didn’t reopen fully until the June 15, so jobs created after reopening may not show up until July’s employment report.
Are unemployment benefits preventing workers from finding jobs?
Nationally, a fiery debate has erupted regarding jobless benefits and the jobs recovery. On one side, many argue that unemployment insurance benefits, particularly enhanced federal unemployment benefits that came online as the pandemic bore down on the economy last year, are essentially “paying people to stay home” and preventing them from returning to work. Others argue that the story is more nuanced, and that other factors like access to childcare and health concerns have prevented many folks from returning.
So, what do the data tell us about San Diego’s job market?
To begin with, nearly 8,000 people entered or reentered the labor force last month, so it doesn’t appear that workers are waiting on the sidelines.
Also, job openings in the San Diego regionare on the rise and, in June, nearly matched their July 2019, pre-pandemic peak. More than 116,000 new jobs were posted last month, up 55 percent from April 2020’s nadir.
It’s important to note that, just like workers, jobs are not identical, so it’s crucial to understand which positions are being advertised and for which industries. Of the 248,000 jobs lost in the region between February and April 2020, 53 percent were in Accommodation and Food Services; Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; and Retail. Unlike total job postings, which have essentially returned to pre-pandemic norms, postings in these three industries still rest 23 percent below their July 2019 peak. Moreover, postings in these industries only accounted for 13.6 percent of all new job openings from April 2020 to June 2021. This implies that the majority of job postings growth has been within industries that suffered far fewer job losses in the pandemic and therefore have fewer available workers to choose from, which better helps to explain why unemployment has not fallen faster in recent months.
Timing should also be considered. Leading up to the pandemic, it took a median 37 days for Accommodation, Arts, and Entertainment, and Retail companies to fill open positions. By June 2021, that number fell to 33 days (also challenging the claim that workers are engaging less with open jobs because of unemployment insurance payouts), but it still implies that it could take at least one to two months before those filled positions show up in the employment data.
Finally, of the more than 140,000 jobs recovered between April 2020 and June 2021, 85,500—or 61 percent—have come from Accommodations, Arts, and Entertainment, and Retail.
Taken together, the data suggest that workers in San Diego are eager to return to work and reestablish some sense of normalcy after more than a year of being dislocated. All told, worries over enhanced jobless benefits preventing people from taking new jobs appear to be overblown, at least locally.
Every quarter San Diego Regional EDC analyzes key economic indicators that are important to understanding the regional economy and the region’s standing relative to the 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S.
EDC explains San Diego’s Q2 2021 economic data:
Key Findings from Q2 2021:
VENTURE CAPITAL: Investment into Technology companies more than quadrupled. More than $2.4 billion in venture capital went to San Diego Tech companies during Q2, a 433 percent increase from the previous quarter and the first time that Tech received more VC funding than Life Sciences since Q1 2019. Life Sciences funding fell from record levels, but still pulled in more than $1.9 billion during the quarter, more than doubling the amount received in the same quarter last year. *Correction: Dollar values for Venture Capital in the preceding paragraph include other sources of funding, such as IPOs, mergers, and Acquisitions.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Demand for office space jumps as State lifts lockdowns. Net absorption of office real estate was positive during the quarter, up more than 330,000 square feet, for the first time since Q4 2019 as San Diego businesses began transitioning back to the office. Additionally, Tech companies such as Apple and AppFolio are expanding their San Diego footprint, helping push office vacancy rates down and rent growth back up.
EMPLOYMENT: Job growth returns amid continued battle for talent. San Diego’s Q2 employment reversed the past year’s downward trend as the vaccine rollout led to loosened restrictions on businesses and increased consumer confidence. Year-over-year total nonfarm employment increased by 17,700 in Q2, with Leisure and Hospitality leading the way. However, total employment remains about 100,000 jobs lower than pre-pandemic levels and some key industries, such as Healthcare, are in dire need of more workers.
Presented by Meyers Nave, this edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers May 2021, with data on employment, housing, and more insights about the region’s economy at this moment in time. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for even more data and stats about San Diego.
San Diego establishments added just 2,000 net new payroll positions in May. Gains in Leisure and Hospitality were largely offset by losses in Construction and Professional and Business Services.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent from April’s 6.7 percent even as several thousand people joined or rejoined the labor force.
The sharp rise in home values appears to be over, but housing affordability is still well below pre-pandemic levels.
Job gains were inconsistent across industries. Out of the 16 supersectors tracked by the California Employment Development Department (EDD), six sectors showed job growth, three sectors showed no change, and seven sectors showed job losses. Leisure and Hospitality led these sectors with 3,900 jobs added in May—3,100 of which were in the Accommodation and Food Services subsector—tacking on to the 7,000 jobs added in April. These gains were followed by increases in Government positions (1,200 jobs), Healthcare and Social Assistance (1,000 jobs), and Transportation and Warehousing (800 jobs).
Job losses in several industries countered some of the growth in May’s employment. Professional and Business services backtracked in May with a decrease of 2,500 jobs—2,100 of which were in the Administrative and Support Services subsector. Construction also reversed some of the headway made in April with a loss of 1,200 jobs in May.
While May’s employment report may have underwhelmed, year-over-year (YoY) growth continues to show just how far San Diego’s regional economy has come since the pandemic eliminated more than 200,000 jobs in the region. Employment in Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores has increased 136.7 percent since May of last year, followed by growth of 44.3 percent in Leisure and Hospitality. See below for month-over-month and year-over-year change by industry.
San Diego’s housing market comes back to earth, but remains largely unaffordable
Despite the unprecedented disruption to the regional labor market from COVID-19, house prices climbed at an accelerated rate. The average listing price for a home in San Diego climbed 38 percent from February 2020 to February 2021. Home values have fallen off those recent highs, but the fact remains that the average price of a home in May was still some 22 percent higher than it was in February 2020.
Fortunately, it looks like affordability (measured as the ratio of total income to average monthly mortgage payment) may be improving. After 13 months of deterioration, the aggregate affordability of a home in San Diego was up 14.3 percent in May from March 2021. Several factors are at play. First, wage income has increased as job gains have continued. Second, the rise in mortgage rates of 25 to 30 basis points has pushed home prices down to help lower average monthly mortgage payments by 12.1 percent. This is because lower mortgage rates are an important factor driving price gains for real estate in San Diego County. Mortgage rates account for 70 percent of house price changes locally, almost double the national average of 35 to 40 percent. This makes sense, considering that San Diego real estate isn’t cheap, and homebuyers have likely been trying to maximize the amount of house they can buy given their budget.
The progress on affordability is encouraging, but more work needs to be done. San Diego County’s housing market has been chronically undersupplied for more than a decade, putting upward pressure on prices. This has accelerated churn in the local population, where lower-income households are being priced out to other parts of the state or elsewhere across the U.S., but new residents are showing up with high-paying jobs in hand who can continue to drive real estate values higher. If it continues, this trend may only serve to exacerbate San Diego’s affordability problem and could limit homeownership to an even smaller proportion of the population. Ensuring San Diego remains affordable and attractive to business and people is critical to its economic recovery and future competitiveness.