EDC, SBDC research show talent acquisition is greatest challenge to small businesses

Small businesses are one of the cornerstones of San Diego’s regional economy. More than 61 percent of all jobs in the region are within a business that employs less than 100 employees, which is nearly double the national average.

However, small businesses are also the most prone to economic downturns relative to their larger peers. The pandemic caused approximately half of all small businesses to face extended closures locally, with many shutting down permanently. On top of that, a job at a small business will pay 34 percent lower wages, on average, than a job at a larger business.

To better understand where small businesses currently stand and their evolving needs in this ever-changing business climate, EDC, San Diego & Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and BW Research conducted a survey of small businesses across San Diego and Imperial Counties. This survey was done in partnership with SBDC to inform its network of advisors to best provide support and programming. Here’s what we learned:

expansion of workforce

Job growth for small businesses has been flat for the past two years. Nearly half of small businesses surveyed indicated no change in employment and an additional 19 percent reported a decrease in employment. This trend is applicable to small businesses in most industries. Businesses in food service, tourism, and hospitality industries experienced less of a decline in employment since the end of 2021. This could be due to pandemic-induced tourism slowdowns when travel was limited. On the other hand, firms in the construction and design industries reported an expansion in employment 12 percentage points above the average, reflecting the region’s investment in infrastructure and development.

However, when asking small businesses about their near-term outlook, nearly one out of three expect to increase hiring over the next 12 months. Firms in the high-paying innovation economy (life sciences, emerging technologies, information, and communication technologies industries) stood ahead of the pack, with 43 percent expecting to add to their workforce. Additionally, 48 percent of small businesses that have a customer base that expanded outside the region had a positive outlook, compared to only 23 percent of firms that serve customers primarily in the region.

Hiring is the greatest challenge

The most significant challenge that small businesses face is recruiting and hiring qualified staff. More than half (55 percent) of small businesses reported some level of difficulty in talent acquisition. Mid-sized (10 to 24 employees) and larger small businesses (25 to 100 employees), as well as firms with more years of experience under their belt, struggle more with finding talent relative to micro businesses (two to nine employees) and younger firms. As a firm grows over time, expansion in its workforce is necessary, but finding the right people to fill roles is hindering most small businesses. This becomes more of a problem when considering that larger businesses are competing for the same talent. Read more about San Diego’s talent outlook on our talent dashboard.

Other significant challenges for small businesses include navigating rules and regulations (44 percent), retaining qualified staff (43 percent), finding affordable commercial or working space (43 percent), and securing necessary funding (43 percent). Younger small businesses are more likely to have difficulties with issues in the early stages of a business like finding an affordable working space or securing necessary funding. More experienced firms are more likely to have difficulties attracting and retaining talent as they look to expand.

Relocation risk

Of small businesses surveyed, seven percent revealed they are planning or exploring a move out of the region. Additionally, 20 percent indicated that although they plan to stay in the region for now, they have considered a move out of the region at some point in the future. When looking at retention by industry, the distribution and logistics industry has the highest proportion of firms planning to leave the region. Furthermore, 35 percent of responding firms in the high-paying, fast-growing innovation economy industries have considered leaving the region—the highest among all industry groups.

Those small businesses that have considered or are planning to leave the region have more difficulty with facets of doing business. Three in five small businesses that are planning to move out of the county report difficulty in navigating these rules and regulations. More specifically, labor regulations, permitting, and taxes are the most common issues that firms run into. Finding an affordable working space and securing funding are also challenges more commonly found in firms that are likely to leave.

Small businesses that rated local programs and resources as a weakness are more likely to leave the region than those that rated it as a strength. Connecting these small businesses to the right resources can help alleviate the challenges they are facing. Greater and more targeted awareness of what is currently available to help small businesses, like EDC business services and SBDC services, could help.

Tap into local resources

If you are a small business in need of assistance, connect with SBDC and its network of advisors, and access on-demand training and live workshops. For additional resources to help your business grow see EDC’s Doing Business Here page. Additionally, learn more about EDC’s Anchor Institution Collaborative, which aims to increase small business resilience by connecting them to large buyers in the region.


Q4 2023: San Diego’s employment and what it means post-pandemic

Each quarter, EDC’s Research Bureau releases its Economic Snapshot to analyze key economic indicators in San Diego’s economy. Read on as we dig deeper to assess the region’s job recovery journey in a post-pandemic economy by looking at economic trends through the end of 2023.

San Diego’s job recovery journey

As San Diego’s unemployment rate has remained up and above the national average, at 4.3 percent and 3.5 percent respectively, and as job growth has slowed compared to early 2023, it is worth examining the region’s progress recovery in a post-pandemic economy.

From March to April 2020, San Diego lost 233,900 jobs, and employment dropped by 18.5 percent causing the unemployment rate to spike to 15.7 percent. In November 2021, the region officially recovered the total number of jobs lost during the pandemic. While recovering lost jobs is an indicator of a healthy economy, it does not tell the whole story. The following explores San Diego’s employment data to understand where the region stands as of the end of 2023.

Not all industries are created equal

While San Diego has regained the total amount of lost jobs, this is not the case for each industry. Total employment in San Diego stands two percent higher than at the onset of the pandemic. However, more than half of industries in San Diego don’t currently match pre-pandemic employment levels. Top growing industries such as Utilities, Transportation, and Healthcare help offset other sectors that are lagging in job growth.

Comparing current employment levels relative to pre-pandemic numbers is not always a reflection of recovery. Such is the case for Finance and Insurance, which made up for pandemic-related job losses by December 2020, but currently sits at 5,300 jobs under original pre-pandemic levels. In fact, several other industries initially recovered pandemic job losses and now find themselves with lower total employment. This includes Retail Trade, Real Estate, Accommodation and Food Services, and Management of Companies.

While it is hard to assume this negative trend is related to pandemic effects, the new conditions it spurred can potentially have a lagging impact on employment across sectors. For example, as remote work trends have become more prevalent, commercial real estate is affected as firms continue to reduce their office footprint, which could potentially lead to a lower demand for commercial real estate talent. In 2019, remote job postings made up only eight and four percent of total job postings in Finance and Information, respectively. In 2023, those proportions grew to 26 and 15 percent.

The industries that recovered the fastest are Transportation and Warehousing in November 2020, followed by Finance and Insurance in December 2020, and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services in March 2021. Employment in the Utilities industry was hardly impacted after March 2020, which might explain why it has added the most jobs since the pandemic started.

What if the pandemic didn’t impact jobs?

While jobs have been recovered, the pandemic has also impacted the job growth that would have occurred absent the pandemic. Before the COVID hit, San Diego’s annual employment growth rate was averaging at 1.1 percent. This typical annual growth rate was disrupted in 2020, as annual employment fell by 10 percent.

To get an idea of where employment would stand today if jobs had not declined amid the pandemic, we apply the average growth rate from 2019 to 2023. Below, we can see how this potential growth compares to the actual annual employment levels in San Diego. From this, we see that the region is still 1,488 jobs below the potential growth, assuming employment has been growing at a fixed annual rate of 1.1 percent. This recovery had a significant economic impact on the region beyond number of jobs. In 2020, the annual growth of San Diego’s gross regional product (GRP) was barely 0.1 percent, while the annual GRP growth rate in 2021 and 2022 was 10 percent.

San Diego relative to California

While San Diego has not fully closed this gap between actual employment and potential employment growth, it is ahead of the state. This aligns with the fact that San Diego’s unemployment rate has remained below California’s throughout the pandemic until now. Additionally, the region was able to reach pre-pandemic labor force levels back in 2022, while the state remains 1.57 percentage points below 2019 participation.

Where does San Diego stand?

While San Diego’s recovery from pandemic employment impacts is not over yet, it is very close to completion at a macro level. However, it is important to monitor individual industries as their employment trends differ from one another. Even after San Diego is aligned with its potential growth, there will likely be industries falling behind; some might even experience new disruptions due to emerging economic conditions in a post-pandemic economic climate.

When comparing to California, the region has held a stronger position and experienced an overall faster recovery, with lower unemployment rates, faster labor force growth, and more rapid return to potential growth.

Learn more in our Quarterly Economic Snapshot

Sofia Nelson-Ferezi
Sofia Nelson-Ferezi

Coordinator, Research


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San Diego’s Economic Snapshot: Q4 2023

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. Thank you to our sponsor Verizon Wireless.

EDC explains San Diego’s Q4 2023 economic data:


Key findings from Q4 2023:

  1. COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Office and industrial real estate utilization fall for sixth straight quarter. In Q4, the region experienced sharp increases in negative net absorption of 441,867 sq. ft. in office space and 525,516 sq. ft. in industrial space. These declines mark the sixth consecutive quarter of negative net absorption. The office market ended 2023 with an additional 1.5 million sq. ft. of unoccupied space, bringing the total amount of vacant office space to more than 10.5 million sq. ft. In response, construction activity has generally declined in both office and industrial, most especially office where we see high interest rates and remote work trends continue post-pandemic.
  2. HOUSING PERMITS: In 2023, the number of housing construction permits reached its highest level since 2005. In Q4 alone, 3,500 housing construction permits were issued in San Diego, totaling 11,468 permits for 2023 and beating the average 8,635 permits granted annually since 2004. This was driven primarily by permits for five or more units, at almost 8,000 permits, while permits for one to four units decreased compared to 2022. Despite an increase in permitting activity, affordability remains woefully low. In fact, only one in nine households in San Diego can now afford the median home price, which reached $931,600 in Q4.
  3. VENTURE CAPITAL: More deals and more dollars in Q4. VC funding in Q4 was split almost equally between San Diego tech and life sciences companies, at $526 million and $570 million respectively, while the consumer companies raised $9 million. This brought the region’s total in Q4 to $1.1 billion, $134 million more than Q3. Making up more than half of Q4’s tech funding, Shield AI secured the region’s largest deal to buildout its AI pilot for autonomous aircraft systems. Overall, San Diego saw a total of $3.9 billion in funding across 182 deals in 2023, $1.9 million short from 2022, but ranking fifth in total VC funding among all U.S. metros.

Check out our most recent Economic Snapshot below

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Looking into the 2024 crystal ball

Sticking the ‘soft’ landing

Happy new year from your local, recovering economist!

After another year filled with uncertainty and the seemingly ever long tail of pandemic-related disruptions, we enter 2024 with a whole host of questions—some new, some recurring.

The past year was dominated by the prognostications of a looming recession. Goldman Sachs famously gave it a 100 percent probability and even the Federal Reserve was bracing for an economic downturn as recently as the summer.

However, it is worth stating the obvious here that the United States did not go into a recession. Throughout 2023, measures of economic growth consistently beat expectations. In the fourth quarter of the year, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent fueled by consumer spending as well as business investment. We saw record corporate profitability, a strong labor market that added nearly three million jobs, and even inflation slow significantly and come close to the Fed’s comfort level of two percent.

Locally, we ended the year with 23,400 more jobs. Investment also came into the San Diego region from both public and private sources. Startups raised another $4 billion in venture capital funding and San Diego received $950 million in federal funding for cleantech development.

There are more jobs in San Diego than ever before, however there are fewer people available to do them. Over the last 12 months, the labor force declined and it is expected that our prime-working age population will shrink in the coming years. Part of this is due to accelerated retirements brought about by the pandemic; part is due to the ever-increasing cost of living. The median-priced home is now more than $1 million with a monthly mortgage payment of more than $5,300.

So, 2024…

Looking to the year ahead, we are approaching a unique moment to accelerate large scale transformation around the future of work and the built environment.

Employers are offering remote and flexible work arrangements at higher rates than during the height of the pandemic. The rapid adoption of generative AI tools is changing how work is done and re-defining what skill development means, favoring agility over ability. There are 32,000 employers nationwide competing for workers with AI skills. In San Diego, there have been more than 5,200 unique job postings seeking AI skills since the launch of ChatGPT just over a year ago.

The permanence of remote work offerings has led to a re-imagining of the office with a flight toward quality. Many employers remain unsure of when and who should return to the office (we can help). These decisions will have profound implications for the future use of office space across our region, of which there is more than 10 million square feet currently vacant, with several million more planned, under construction, or with leases coming due in the next year.

While affordability remains abysmally low, housing production has ramped up with permitting activity expected to match levels not seen since 2017. This is still not enough new housing to meet demand, but still very welcome development (pun intended!). Additionally, rent growth seems to have plateaued and returned to pre-pandemic rates giving renters a much-needed pause in increases.

And yet, nothing that our region will face in 2024 is inevitable. What lies ahead is both a familiar challenge and a new opportunity for inclusive growth. A challenge to meet the talent needs of our employers, and an opportunity to remove barriers to entry into the workforce. A challenge to promote quality job growth in small businesses, and an opportunity to shift spending toward local, diverse suppliers. A challenge to address affordability, and an opportunity to re-imagine our urban core to retain high-paying jobs and provide housing for working families.

It’s a tall order, but our region is hungry. Let’s get to work!

Eduardo Velasquez
Eduardo Velasquez

Sr. Director, Research & Economic Development


Read 2023’s edition: Looking into the crystal ball…

More FROM EDC’s research bureau

More on inclusive growth

Q3 2023: San Diego’s remote work policy and the impact on commercial real estate

Each quarter, EDC’s Research Bureau releases its Economic Snapshot to analyze key economic indicators in San Diego’s economy. Read on as we take a closer look at how remote work trends are reshaping the workplace and the broader economy.

Remote first work

As the cost of living in San Diego continues to outpace compensation, remote work flexibility has emerged as a valuable incentive for job seekers—often, the most valuable. With San Diego median home prices reaching an all-time high of $1 million in Q3, working remotely opens affordable housing markets to employees without being limited by geographic constraints. Meanwhile, this allows employers to hire out-of-county or even out-of-state, increasing the pool of talent available to them.

Even still, employers grapple with concerns about the potential impact on employee productivity, leading to a spectrum of opinions on the efficacy of remote schedules. Yet, cutting overhead costs by adopting fully remote schedules has become an attractive possibility for firms.

SANDAG’s recent report on Remote Work Policies and Practices shows how the percentage of businesses that offer remote work options to their employees jumped from 27 percent pre-pandemic to 47 percent during, and 57 percent post-pandemic. This has had an obvious and indelible impact on commercial real estate demand.

What this means for real estate now

In the Q3 2023 Economic Snapshot, we saw that San Diego office real estate experienced its fifth consecutive quarter of negative net absorption, which reflects the difference between space that became physically occupied and space that became vacant. When this number is negative, it means more space became vacant than occupied during the quarter, perhaps because tenants decided not to renew leases as they became due.

San Diego’s negative net absorption trend is noteworthy for two reasons:

  1. Despite net absorption remaining negative for five quarters, asking rates remained at an all-time high throughout, reaching $3.31 per square foot in Q3 2023. Typically, asking rates would be expected to decrease in response to a slower demand for office space.
  1. Since 2010, the only other time the region has experienced five consecutive quarters of negative net absorption was during the onset of the pandemic, from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.

Find this and other data trends in our interactive dashboard.

We know that office spaces became unoccupied during the pandemic due to public health mandates and safety protocols. But why are we seeing this trend again and what could be causing it? The answer could be observed in the previous graph, leading firms to cut office space.

While net absorption remained negative in Q3 2023, the number recovered greatly and indicated potential recovery from past quarters. In Q3, the office market experienced 37,868 square feet of negative net absorption, compared to 159,262 square feet in Q2 and 874,036 in Q1.

The negative net absorption in Q3 was primarily driven by larger office vacancies in areas such as UTC, Kearny Mesa, and Del Mar Heights, according to CBRE’s quarterly report. Similarly, the highest asking rates in Q3 were found in UTC, Torrey Pines, and Del Mar Heights. The low tenant demand and the continuing construction of office spaces combined might generate more available, yet unoccupied space.

Looking ahead and how you can get involved

As the San Diego region anticipates continued changes in commercial real estate, EDC is scoping a unique study of the local workforce in which we’ll survey the employees of large and small companies throughout the county. The first local study of scale on workforce requirements and desires (to our knowledge), our goal is to identify evolving local trends in how work is done, workers’ needs, workforce trends, and workplace requirements to inform company return to office plans as well as office tenant attraction strategies.

Updated survey work and studies combined with tools such as EDC’s Investment Map can help private and public investors better understand workforce and workplace trends when making commercial real estate development decisions that benefit both employers and workers. To get involved, contact EDC’s Senior Director of Research and Economic Development:

Eduardo Velasquez
Eduardo Velasquez

Sr. Director, Research & Economic Development


You might also like to read:

San Diego’s Economic Snapshot: Q3 2023

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. Thank you to our sponsor Verizon Wireless

EDC explains San Diego’s Q3 2023 economic data:


Key findings from Q3 2023:

  1. TALENT: Job growth continues as job postings slow down. In Q3, employment grew 1.9 percent compared to a year ago, in line with the state but behind San Diego’s most peer metros. The labor force has recovered from Q2 losses, adding nearly 13,000 participants this quarter and up 2.8 percent from last year. In contrast, the number of unique job postings advertised by regional employers totaled 106,521 in Q3, a 32 percent decrease compared to this quarter last year.
  2. AFFORDABILITY: Median home price reached an all-time highSan Diego’s median home price ranks second among peer metros, behind only San Francisco. Home prices increased an additional eight percent during the last year, while home sales fell 25 percent. Year-over-year home sales have declined since August 2021. The lack of housing supply and the reduced number of transactions has resulted in record lack of affordability.
  3. COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Office space occupancy declines for fifth consecutive quarter. In other words, more office space has become unoccupied than leased for over a year. However, net absorption is currently trending in the right direction. In Q3, the office market experienced 37,868 square feet of negative absorption, compared to 159,262 square feet in Q2 and 874,036 in Q1. The only other time San Diego experienced this degree of negative net absorption was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out our most recent Economic Snapshot below

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Q2: San Diego’s new unemployment numbers and what they mean.

Each quarter, EDC’s Research Bureau releases its Economic Snapshot to analyze key economic indicators in San Diego’s economy. Read on as we dig deeper to assess the region’s labor force, unemployment, and talent supply.

As 2022 came to a close, San Diego celebrated a relatively low unemployment rate at three percent. However, across just a few months, the region saw a slight bump up to four percent in the second quarter of 2023. What does this increase signify, and why is it essential to comprehend the broader employment landscape in San Diego?

Understanding San Diego’s labor force involves more than just examining unemployment rates. It requires considering historical context, peer metro comparisons, labor force dynamics, seasonal trends, and the complex factors shaping employment and workforce trends.

San Diego’s unemployment rate has hovered between 2.9 percent and four percent over the past five years, with the exception of the pandemic-induced peak of 13.6 percent. Since then, San Diego’s unemployment rate has been steadily declining until its first increase in Q1 2023.

With this context in mind, here are some different ways we approach the data.


To gain a comprehensive understanding of local employment, we compare San Diego’s numbers with its peer metros and the nation. In the first two quarters of the year, the U.S. and our peer metros saw an increase in unemployment rates after continuously declining throughout 2022. See how San Diego stacks up in our interactive dashboard, where you will notice similar trend lines in most comparisons. Still, the region ranked amongst the highest increases in this national trend, following Riverside, St. Louis, and San Francisco.


Employment in specific industry sectors can fluctuate due to seasonal factors. For instance, in Q2 2023, tourism and hospitality experienced an expected seasonal spike of 7,100 jobs as San Diego prepares to receive tourists in the spring. To account for these fluctuations, analysts often examine the percentage change from the previous year. In Q2 2023, there was a three percent growth in employment compared to the previous year, slightly exceeding the typical annual employment growth rate (ranging between 1.2 and 2.5 percent) and indicating anticipated recovery from the pandemic.


One crucial aspect to consider when analyzing rising unemployment rates is the overall labor force composition. Sometimes, an increasing unemployment rate can be attributed to a growing labor force as individuals re-enter or join the workforce. This usually results in temporarily higher unemployment rates, as these individuals search for employment and the hiring process takes time. However, for Q2 2023, this was not the case. Data indicates a decline in the total labor force while the number of unemployed has risen. This phenomenon contributed to the increase in the unemployment rate during the first half of 2023. To put this into perspective, Q2 2023 saw a labor force decline of 25,889 since the last quarter. In contrast to the year before, the labor force declined by 8,966 in Q2 2022. While historical data indicate that labor force declines at the beginning of Q2 are typical, this year’s Q2 decrease marked the highest in the past five years, even exceeding Q2 2020 when employment was first affected by the pandemic.


Here are some factors that can collectively help explain San Diego’s labor force fluctuations:

Remote work trends. The widespread adoption of remote work during the pandemic has led to a preference for flexibility and convenience. As a result, workers may seek remote-only or hybrid work arrangements, potentially contributing to the “great resignation” phenomenon. This trend also has implications for the use—or lack thereof—of office space and commercial real estate. Office asking rates have remained high after the pandemic spike ($3.26 per square foot), while rates for industrial space have been more stable.

Rising cost of living. While San Diego is home to top universities producing talent in key economic sectors such as innovation, the increasing cost of living may drive workers away from the region. EDC’s Inclusive Growth framework highlights the disconnection between the unaffordable housing market and compensation. Competitive wages are a must to keep our locally produced talent in the region.

Limited talent supply. There are more open positions in San Diego than unemployed people available to fill them—on par with the national trend. Employers are responding to talent supply challenges by prioritizing inclusive talent recruitment. Job opportunities are opened to a new subset of the unemployed population, expanding the talent pool for employers. To do this, there have been employer-driven efforts to reevaluate training requirements and accessibility, as well as amplified focus on opportunity populations. On the educators side, efforts are being made to leverage the bi-national comparative advantage to fill high-demand positions with talent produced in the Baja region by collaborating with universities across the border. UC San Diego’s ENLACE summer research program invites high school and university students from the Baja region to participate in research programs at UC San Diego.

While the unemployment rate itself is not always sufficient to indicate concern, historical economic context and analysis helps us gather the following takeaways:

  • High-level unemployment numbers for Q2 2023 are in alignment with historical and national trends, as most peer metros experienced similar increases. In other words, San Diego is not experiencing any unusual trend activity.
  • However, labor force composition trends should command our attention in upcoming quarters, being that Q2’s labor force number decreased significantly compared to the past five years.
  • Total labor force and unemployment numbers are particularly important to track given the region’s talent supply. Lower unemployment rates can generally indicate a limited talent pool; however, this quarter’s unemployment rate increase was mostly due to people exiting the labor force, not people joining and looking for jobs.

Explore the data in our Economic Snapshot.

EDC report: 2023 Inclusive Growth Progress

Report: San Diego affordability crisis threatens latest jobs and talent gains

Today, San Diego Regional EDC released its 2023 Inclusive Growth Progress Report. With updated data and bold objectives set around increasing the number of quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households critical to the region’s competitiveness, the report measures San Diego’s growth and recovery, and spotlights the greatest threats to prosperity.


Making the business case for inclusion, EDC releases this annual report to track progress toward the region’s 2030 goals: 50,000 new quality jobs* in small businesses; 20,000 skilled workers per year; and 75,000 newly thriving households**. Since its launch in 2017, the initiative has rallied public commitments from County, City, academic, and private sector leaders who are leveraging the Inclusive Growth framework to inform their priorities, tactics, and resource allocation. While much about the economy remains uncertain, intentional and consistent efforts by a diverse set of regional stakeholders will be key to achieving these goals.

“Large and small businesses, nonprofits, and government all play important roles in building a strong local economy and expanding economic inclusion,” said Jennie Brooks, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and EDC Board Chair. “Booz Allen is empowering its employees with training in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and is committed to helping prepare local, diverse San Diegans for tech careers of the future. We are proud to partner with local nonprofits and small businesses to make advanced technology broadly accessible to students and create a supportive ecosystem in San Diego to drive inclusive economic growth.”


Over the past decade, the San Diego region has experienced a notable upswing in general prosperity, standard of living, average wages, and productivity, including a full recovery from the pandemic across virtually every sector. Yet, these gains have not been evenly distributed.

In terms of racial, geographic, and overall inclusion, San Diego has slipped; the pandemic has hit lower-income households and minority communities hardest. The relative poverty rate has increased while median earnings and the household wage gap between white and non-white populations has widened. Record-level inflation has hit struggling San Diego households hard, and high operating costs have degraded the ability of businesses to attract and retain talent.

Despite these obstacles, San Diego is once again making headway on the quality jobs and skilled worker goals; see charts below. 2021 saw an uptick in small business jobs as well as the highest increase in post-secondary education (PSE) completions in more than a decade.

However, decreasing affordability coupled with uneven economic prosperity not only threatens that progress but indeed may mean that San Diego falls even further behind its peer metros on overall prosperity. The region now needs to add 125,000 newly thriving households by the end of the decade to meet the goal.

The region’s expensive and limited housing market has exacerbated inflation across all categories, with fewer than 44 percent of San Diego households considered thriving. The affordability crisis will primarily impact Black and Latino households, of which more than half are low-income, and continue to challenge employers’ ability to attract and retain talent—posing the single greatest threat to the region’s economic growth.

“While EDC’s report demonstrates San Diego’s remarkable resilience in the face of the pandemic, our jobs and talent gains are being diminished by the region’s affordability crisis. Unless we get this right, San Diego will always be catching up,” said Lisette Islas, Executive VP and Chief Impact Officer at MAAC, and EDC Vice Chair of Inclusive Growth.

Join the movement

Using a demand-driven, employer-led, and outcomes-based approach, San Diego private, public, and community leaders must deploy creative solutions to achieve these 2030 goals. EDC invites the community to join us at one of two upcoming webinars to learn more about the data and how to get involved:

“We’re seeing HR departments dissolve degree requirements, big buyers redirecting procurement spend, governments streamlining permitting processes, and developers prioritizing on-site childcare. This is the level of regional adoption required to move the needle on inclusion, and EDC is committed to continuing to tell a data-driven story to make the business imperative clear. San Diego’s future depends on it,” said Teddy Martinez, Senior Manager, Research, San Diego Regional EDC.

Read the full report at 2023.inclusivesd.org, and all previous updates at progress.inclusiveSD.org

The initiative is sponsored by Bank of America, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, JPMorgan Chase & Co., San Diego Gas & Electric, Seaport San Diego, Southwest Airlines, and University of San Diego Knauss School of Business.

more at inclusiveSD.org

*Quality job = $45K wages + healthcare benefits.

**Thriving household = total income covers cost of living for renter- or owner-occupied households, at $79K and $122K respectively.

San Diego’s Economic Snapshot: Q2 2023

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 2023 economic data:

Key findings from Q2 2023:

  1. Unemployment grows as people exit the labor force. Unemployment in San Diego began to rise at the turn of the new year, reaching four percent in Q2 2023. On par with the national rate, most peer metros also saw unemployment rates rise in Q2. In San Diego, the labor market has softened as the number of unemployed people increased by 3,751 while the labor force declined by 25,889 since last quarter. In contrast to Q2 2022, the labor force declined by 8,966 and unemployment decreased by 3,316.
  2. VC resumes pre-pandemic upward trend. San Diego’s total Q2 VC exceeded last quarter but lags compared to Q2 2022. The largest recipient of VC this quarter was Avenzo Therapeutics at $196 million; the company is building a pipeline in preclinical or early clinical antibody-drug conjugates, bispecifics, and small molecules. This deal marks the 18th largest VC investment secured in San Diego since 2019. The region closed a total of 227 VC deals in 2022, compared to 96 deals in the first half of 2023.
  3. Office space asking rates grow while industrial asking rates decline. Office asking rates reached an all-time high of $3.26 per square foot, even as vacancy rates continued to increase over the past four quarters to 14 percent. On the other hand, industrial real estate has responded to a 0.5 percent increase in vacancy rate by offering lower asking prices of $1.66 per square foot. These more stabilized rates may be in part because industrial work requires employees be in-person, unchallenged by remote work trends.

Check out our most recent Economic Snapshot below

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A tool for inclusive growth: The San Diego Investment Map

New digital tool to help inform inclusive growth in housing, childcare, industry

Today, EDC launched the San Diego Investment Map, a new digital tool to inform strategic, inclusive growth across the region. As part of EDC’s Inclusive Growth Initiative, the Investment Map provides a first-of-its-kind interactive data tool to support decision making across core facets of the local economy: childcare, middle-income housing, and corporate site selection.

Pulling a variety of datasets into an easy-to-use dashboard, the San Diego Investment Map allows users to explore San Diego County through a different lens. The interactive dashboards include data and analyses, and serve to shine a light on the region’s greatest threats to economic competitiveness: a jobs and housing imbalance, among other affordability challenges.

Key takeaways:

  • CHILDCARE: San Diego has 327 childcare ‘deserts’ spread throughout the region, making up nearly half of all census tracts. The Investment Map can pinpoint gaps in childcare supply and help narrow sites for prioritization.
  • HOUSING: Seventy-four percent of San Diego’s population is middle- to low-income, yet only 2.5 percent of permitted housing development needed in the region accommodates these groups. The Investment Map can identify zones with existing building incentives, community plan updates, as well as new commercial development where workforce housing may be needed.
  • INDUSTRY: There are 15.6 million rentable square feet of commercial space being developed across the region, predominately concentrated in northern San Diego. While this includes enough office space for more than 42,000 employees, most workers live instead in the southern and eastern parts of the region. The Investment Map can assist companies in site selection based on occupation hubs, commute trends, and other infrastructure assets that meet their operational needs.

“The San Diego Investment Map serves as a tool for local policy makers, developers, and employers to make informed and deliberate decisions to prioritize the region’s inclusive growth. Using geographic storytelling, the map makes obvious the gaps in our economy—limited childcare; disjointed development both in terms of location and income-level; rising costs with no end in sight. Data-driven solutions to alleviate these challenges will safeguard San Diego’s competitiveness,” said Teddy Martinez, Sr. Research Manager, San Diego Regional EDC.

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About the Inclusive Growth Initiative

The innovation economy will continue to make San Diego more prosperous than many of its peers, but it is not accessible to the fastest-growing segment of the region’s population. This mismatch between our regional assets and our economy’s future needs will consistently erode the region’s competitiveness.

Launched in 2018, EDC’s Inclusive Growth Initiative serves to communicate these challenges, making the business case for economic inclusion across San Diego. By 2030, County, City, private sector and academic leaders have pledged their commitments to the initiative’s goals: 50,000 new quality jobs in small businesses, 20,000 new skilled workers annually, and 75,000 newly thriving households. See how we’re tracking here.

The San Diego Investment Map marks a new tool for employers and stakeholders to engage in this work, specifically tackling the thriving households goal.

“Inclusion is an economic and business imperative. It’s more than DE&I in the workplace—it’s about ensuring all San Diegans have the resources and infrastructure needed to thrive in this region. The Investment Map highlights all the work we still have to do to make that possible,” said Lisette Islas, EDC vice chair of Inclusive Growth, and EVP and Chief Impact Officer of MAAC.

The San Diego Investment Map was authored by San Diego Regional EDC, with support and counsel provided by Buzz Woolley and Mary Walshok.

Learn more about inclusive growth

Explore the Map

Interested in a demo, or getting involved? Contact EDC:

Teddy Martinez
Teddy Martinez

Sr. Manager, Research