San Diego’s Economic Pulse: December 2020

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

Key Takeaways

  1. Unemployment falls to 6.6 percent.
  1. San Diego retailers gear up for holiday season by hiring 1,800 employees, but sales continue to suffer.
  1. Shop local this holiday season and wear a mask.

Labor Market Overview

The region’s unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in November, down from a revised 7.5 percent in October 2020, and still more than twice the year-ago estimate of 2.9 percent. Unemployment continues to increase in San Diego’s unincorporated and poorer areas, while falling in wealthier areas. The highest unemployment area in the region was Bostonia at 12.4 percent followed by National City at 10.3 percent, and the lowest was Solana Beach at 3.6 percent.

The region’s unemployment rate remains lower than California’s unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, but slightly higher than the national rate of 6.4 percent. While unemployment continues to fall, much of the improvement can be attributed to government support. In fact, unemployment claims increased again this week showing as emergency aid has dried up—proof the local job market could once again backtrack in the coming months.

Total nonfarm employment increased by 14,300 in November. Trade, transportation, and utilities accounted for the largest monthly gains, adding 8,200 jobs last month, primarily concentrated in retail trade (up 1,800 jobs). Even so, compared to a year ago, retail trade is still down 6,200 jobs. Professional and business services followed with an increase of 2,800 jobs. Job gains were driven by administrative and support services, which added 1,800 jobs. Food services and drinking places continue to struggle, shedding 1,000 jobs last month, even before the mandatory closures that took place in December.

Compared to a year ago, San Diego nonfarm employment remains down 97,700 jobs, or 6.4 percent. Leisure and hospitality represent the largest share, down 35,300 jobs. Accommodation is down 12,900 jobs over the year, and food services and drinking places are down 22,400.

Retail Sales Decline

November marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season as shown by an increase in retail employment in San Diego. However, nationwide retail sales numbers were gloomy. Retail sales were down 1.1 percent from October (seasonally adjusted), which was much worse than expected and likely impacted by increased COVID-19 infections and decreasing household income as expanded unemployment benefits expired. Without a stimulus relief package from Congress, retail sales declines will likely continue and perhaps become severe as millions lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas.

Department store sales in the U.S. declined by 19 percent since this time last year and 7.7 percent since last month. Clothing and clothing accessories stores declined by 16.1 percent since last year and 6.8 percent since last month. Food service and drinking place stores declined by nearly one percent since last year and 4 percent since last month due to mandatory stay at home closures.

November’s retail sales were the worst since April, adding to the already growing list of signs that a slowdown in the recovery could be imminent. As San Diego’s retailers hire more employees for the holiday season, the call to shop local and safely becomes more necessary, especially given what appears to be a slowdown in consumer spending. Small businesses drive San Diego’s economy and create thriving neighborhoods. Check out some local favorites around the County.


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

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

Request EDC assistance

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Economy in crisis: Job growth slows as we head into New Year


  1. After an impressive October employment report, San Diego is set to end the year on a down note.
  1. Job growth in November is expected to slow, similar to the U.S., and fresh stay-at-home orders set the stage for a weak December and January.
  1. The string of weak employment expectations could delay a return to full employment from Spring 2021 to the Fall.

Given the way 2020 has unfolded to date, it’s only fitting that the year would end with a fizzle instead of a sizzle.

It looks like November’s jobs report for San Diego will serve up a slowdown similar to what was seen nationally. For the U.S., payroll job growth slowed substantially from 610,000 net jobs gained in October to a worse-than-expected 245,000 in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis. On a not-seasonally-adjusted basis, which is how the San Diego employment figures are delivered, U.S. job gains were cut by about two-thirds, from 1,587,000 in October to 517,000 in November. The fortunes of San Diego’s job market are tightly tethered to those of the nation’s, so we can expect a similar dynamic to play out here.

We won’t know for sure until the San Diego jobs numbers are officially released next Friday, December 18. But we can surmise some baseline conclusions based on the U.S. jobs numbers, California continuing claims for unemployment insurance, and recent stay-at-home orders issued by the state and county.

Based on the historical relationship between U.S. and local employment, it looks like San Diego gained anywhere between 7,500 and 8,000 jobs in November, down considerably from 21,500 the month prior. Moreover, some push and pull between industries will likely emerge.

The unemployment rate, which is calculated using a different survey than the one used to estimate nonfarm payrolls, appears poised to fall further despite the anticipated slowdown in payroll job growth. After falling 1.2 percentage points in October, from 8.9 percent to 7.7 percent, the rate could fall to around 7 percent in November. October’s employment report showed that a record 55,800 workers joined or rejoined the labor force, which has the effect of pushing the unemployment rate higher. So, if any of the mad rush back into the labor market was reversed last month, then the jobless rate could be shown to have fallen even as low as 6 to 6.5 percent.


With the labor market slowing in November, it seems like a safe bet to assume a setback is in the cards for December, especially in light of the most recent COVID-19 shutdown orders. This certainly appeared to be the case in July when San Diego County reissued directives for non-essential businesses to halt or reduce operations as COVID infections surged and employment took a step back.

However, since San Diego’s job numbers are not adjusted for seasonality like the national figures, it’s important to realize that monthly employment patterns may reflect the seasonal ebb and flow of the job market. Looking back through history, San Diego has experienced July employment declines in 54 of the past 72 years that data are available, making it especially tough to tell if the dip this past summer was shutdown-related or simply a normal seasonal occurrence. In fact, the drop in July was just about average—slightly less so, actually—than those seen in most other years.

On the other side of the coin, employment has climbed in every December, except five, in the last 71 years as holiday hiring picked up. So, barring a double-dip recession in the region, the odds of any large-scale net job losses in December are slim. The more likely outcome is a slower-than-average job build if retailers and leisure businesses don’t bring on their usual volume of holiday staff—quite likely, given the fresh round of stay-at-home orders issued for the county.


All in all, San Diego is looking at a string of underwhelming employment reports over the next several months. November will not repeat October’s healthy gains, and December could be flat to very modestly negative as holiday hiring is on pause amid COVID-induced shutdowns. January tends to show job losses as temporary holiday help is let go. However, if December holiday hiring is less robust than normal this year, then there will be fewer holiday workers exiting the payrolls in the beginning of next year. Nonetheless, most companies don’t tend to bring on many new hires in January, since interviewing and onboarding job candidates is usually interrupted by the holidays in November and December, setting the stage for a pretty weak month regardless.

It was recently mentioned that San Diego could return to full employment by April of next year if the average pace of hiring from April to October of this year was maintained. However, this is looking less and less likely, and a weak to flat November and December would put full employment closer to Fall 2021.

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Release: EDC study finds one in four local firms engaged in AI

EDC study quantifies impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning

San Diego industries that are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) support an estimated 175,680 jobs and $33.3 billion in annual gross regional product, according to a study released today by San Diego Regional EDC. Underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton, “Measuring the Future: AI and San Diego’s Economy” is the first in a series of reports that will identify key industries and clusters where AI and machine learning (ML) have been implemented, and ultimately quantify the impacts of these technologies on San Diego’s regional economy.

The study—available at—includes a historic timeline, cluster map, and cross-references AI patent language with job postings to anticipate the future impacts of AI and ML on the job market.

AI and ML technologies have swiftly infiltrated most every facet of our lives as computing power and speed increase. Self-driving cars, algorithmic trading, customer experience bots and AI assistants like Siri and Alexa have become commonplace tools used by people at home and at work.

“The proliferation of AI and ML technologies promises to be a transformative force for businesses worldwide—and like in many innovative industries—San Diego is at the forefront. With this report, the EDC Research Bureau helps paint a picture of the impact of AI, proving its potential to grow jobs and even help narrow gender and racial wage gaps,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional EDC.

Contrary to popular belief and despite current economic conditions, three in five AI developers (62 percent) expect to see the number of employees specifically engaged in AI-related work grow over the next 12 months. This means locally based AI talent could help meet growing demand across the U.S. as employers try to hire workers in earnest that possess skills readily available from San Diego AI. Notably, job postings data in Sun Belt metros like San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Tampa and Miami show that employers are struggling to fill positions requiring facial and speech recognition skills—key specializations of AI developers in San Diego. Meanwhile, predictive and forecasting AI could help alleviate hiring difficulties among firms in major economic and financial centers, including New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. More than eight in 10 AI developers in San Diego specialize in machine or deep learning technologies, a fundamental building block for predictive AI.

Large local companies in San Diego like Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman Corporation, ResMed and growing startups and small businesses like Lytx, Lockton, Traits AI and Semantic AI are helping to lead the charge in AI—enabling people and firms to operate more quickly and efficiently. Specifically, the use of AI or ML technologies largely supports four areas of firm activity: the development of new products and services, improved efficiency and productivity, reduced costs and an increase in business revenues.

“Booz Allen Hamilton is at the forefront of AI adoption, development and implementation, and we believe that San Diego’s companies can leverage this technology to meet their missions, attract talent and fuel economic activity,” said Joe Rohner, a Booz Allen director and leader in the firm’s analytics practice and AI services business. “We are energized that EDC’s report findings show local respondents see AI as truly helping the San Diego economy by creating more jobs—not eliminating them. People are essential to the ethical application of AI, and this technology will enable organizations and their workforce to increase productivity, quality and efficiency—in San Diego and globally.”

Despite AI’s productivity-boosting, job-creating power, a number of challenges remain. Top of mind for most local employers is the inability to source qualified talent. However, COVID-19 and the subsequent increase in remote work has expanded the talent pool for San Diego County’s AI and ML employers.

“Rapidly developing machine learning/artificial intelligence technology that enhances the work our men and women in uniform do every day is critical to the future of defense. Northrop Grumman is well positioned to continue to grow the local talent pipeline through our San Diego-based education programs so businesses in our community have the right skill sets available to support this important and rapidly evolving field,” said Alfredo Ramirez, Vice President of Northrop Grumman’s San Diego Autonomous Design Center of Excellence.


  • Average salary in AI/ML-concentrated industries is $127,960—3.9 percent above the national average for these industries and more than 70 percent above San Diego’s average worker salary.
  • For every 1,000 jobs gained in this cluster, another 1,400 jobs are created in other industries.
  • Survey proves AI adoption is creating job opportunities in the region:
    • 66 percent of firms agreed that the use of AI and ML has created new job opportunities
    • 54 percent of firms agree that AI and ML are increasing the need for more workers at their business
  • 31 percent of jobs in AI-concentrated fields require only a high school diploma and pay an average of $22.42 per hour
  • The boost to productivity and efficiency from AI and ML should lift wages in traditional or population-serving industries, which employ a larger share of women and non-white workers than other sectors, and could therefore potentially reduce gender and racial wage gaps as these technologies are adopted.

The report was produced by San Diego Regional EDC, underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton, and sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corporation, ResMed, Lytx and Lockton.

Read the full study at

For more research from EDC, click here.

EDC, City of SD release study on creative economy

First-of-its-kind study highlights impact on San Diego economy, including $11B generated and more than 100K employed

Of note, data collected is pre-COVID from 2019.

In order to better understand the impact on our communities, EDC and the City of San Diego have released the first comprehensive study analyzing the intersection between San Diego’s creative industries and the local economy.

Together with the City’s Commission for Arts and Culture and the Economic Development Department, EDC authored the 2020 Creative Economy Study to examine the economic impact creative industries and their workers have on the region.

“San Diego’s creative industries have an important ripple effect in the broader economy. Every job in the creative industry supports another 1.1 jobs,” said Christina Bibler, Director of the City’s Economic Development Department. “This means that creative industries are a powerful component in the region, with many industries employing creative workers.” 

The creative economy is defined as a sector made up of non-profit and for-profit businesses and individuals who produce cultural, artistic and design goods or services and intellectual property. In San Diego, the creative economy employs more than 107,000 people at nearly 7,400 creative firms and organizations and generates more than $11 billion annually.

“To grow San Diego’s creative economy, we first need to understand it. This report is the starting point to understanding the space and trends over time,” said Jonathon Glus, Executive Director of the Commission for Arts and Culture. “Investing in creative industries can help advance San Diego as a creative city and it’s the ideal platform for cross-sector collaboration and innovation.” 

The study measured the size of the creative economy and identified characteristics unique to San Diego that could provide future economic growth potential. The study spanned 71 industries and 77 unique occupations.

Study findings include:

  • 59% of the creative economy in San Diego is for-profit, 34% nonprofit and others (including government employers and independent contractors).
  • The majority of creative firms and organizations are small, with 19 or fewer employees.
  • 41% of creative industry employers hire a large number of contractors.
  • The median annual income for creative occupations is $75,000.

“With a 23% decline in jobs, the arts have been hit even harder by the pandemic than most sectors of our economy,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional EDC. “As San Diego recovers, it is imperative we continue to work with our arts and cultural leaders to create a more diverse and resilient arts industry to weather future economic downturns—for the sake of the vibrancy of our communities and our culture.” 

Completed in May 2020, the study utilizes 2019 information. The data was collected pre-COVID-19 and prior to the implementation of Assembly Bill 5 Worker status: Employee and Independent Contractors (AB 5).

As of August 2020, the economic impact of job loss in San Diego’s creative industries due to COVID-19 is estimated to be a decline of $2.1 billion. 


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

Industry Profiles are back…and better

EDC’s Industry Profiles are back…and better than ever. Consistently our most visited pages on the former EDC site, we took some time to give them the refresh they deserved.

Not sure what we mean by ‘Industry Profiles’?

With breakthrough technology companies and research organizations, the largest military concentration in the world and a strong tourism industry, the San Diego region has one of the most dynamic economies in the country. Created by our Research Bureau, these profiles take a deep dive into the industries that make San Diego the innovation hub that it is, with data on employment, businesses, wages, and more.

San Diego regional industries to explore:

Visit our Research Page to see the new profiles

San Diego’s Economic Pulse: October 2020

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

Key Takeaways

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

Labor Market Overview

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

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


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

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


Long-Term Unemployment Continues to Increase

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

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

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

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

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

Request EDC assistance

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Request EDC assistance

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: September 2020

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

Key Takeaways

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

Unemployment Drops

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

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

Employment Bounces Back

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

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

Sector Employment Gradually Returning

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

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

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

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

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

Recovery Must Focus on Low-Wage Workers

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Request EDC assistance

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San Diego’s economic recovery must be inclusive.

A note from Our board chair

In 1967, my parents fled Cuba to seek freedom and a better life in the United States. Due to travel restrictions, they were forced to move to Spain, where I was born, before finally arriving in the City of Chicago in January 1968. My parents never dreamed that within a generation, their son would become a senior executive at one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Growing up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, I certainly never thought that the community I would find myself living and investing in all these years later would be San Diego, California. Yet here I am.

As I take on the role of board chair for the next two years at San Diego Regional EDC, I am fortunate, blessed, and humbled by the opportunities that life has given me. I also recognize that my story is not the norm for Latino immigrants in this country and that my journey thus far is not particularly common for a city kid from Chicago. I feel both an obligation and responsibility to use this time at EDC wisely, effectively, and purposefully. And as the threats and realities of COVID-19 and racial injustice continue to grip our community and our economy, like many, I feel the urgency and the need to accelerate the recovery that lies in front of us.

From the years following the Great Depression to those following the Great Recession, every recovery that the American economy has experienced has increased systemic poverty and widened the inequalities in Latino and African American communities. Too often, in a rush to restore economic normalcy for some, entire segments of our communities have been left further behind and unable to find and maintain their footing on a new and changing economic foundation. Our commitment at EDC is to do everything we can—drawing on the breadth and depth of every partnership and relationship we have—to get this recovery right.

This recovery requires us to redouble our commitment to inclusive economic growth, so that we build back a San Diego that is more resilient because prosperity reaches more people. Even in the midst of great economic uncertainty, we know one thing for sure: the innovation economy will lead us out of this recession just like it has every one before it. If the business community is thoughtful, strategic, and collaborative in this moment, we can ensure a stronger, bolder, more resilient San Diego in the years ahead.

The building blocks are clear: skilled talent, quality jobs, and thriving households.

  1. The hottest job market in a generation has become the weakest. However, there are still shortages for in-demand jobs. This means we need to do better at equipping San Diegans for the jobs of today, and those of tomorrow.
  1. Nearly 30% of small businesses have closed. And we know small businesses employ the majority of San Diegans. This means we must invest in entrepreneurship and resiliency by creating opportunities for diverse founders, and better connecting small businesses to big customers.
  1. Housing prices and unemployment are both at record highs. The economy cannot recover if people cannot afford to live here. This means we must prioritize access to and affordability of the essential infrastructure that working families rely upon—like housing, childcare, and broadband.

If past economic, financial, education, and workforce decisions have exacerbated systemic poverty and created barriers to opportunity for so many, it follows that the decisions we make now can change the future for our children and grandchildren. And with nearly 200 of the region’s largest employers, hundreds of community partners, and the proud legacies of my family and culture behind me—I plan on seeing San Diego Regional EDC through a period of historic and inclusive growth. We will get this recovery right.

—Julian Parra, EDC board chair
& SVP, Region Executive, Pacific Southwest Business Banking, Bank of America

Visit our Inclusive Recovery page for more

See Julian’s op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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