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November 19, 2021

San Diego’s labor market scored an impressive performance in October with a robust job gain and sizable drop in unemployment. On a particularly positive note, more people came back to the workforce and were welcomed by employers eager to hire them.


San Diego’s October’s jobless rate dropped to 5.3% from 5.7% in the prior month after adjusting for seasonal volatility (calculated by PLNU). “This was especially promising since it was achieved during a month that saw large numbers of people returning to the workforce,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University. “The re-opening of schools and childcare facilities is enabling more people to seek jobs, while companies are offering higher wages and incentives to attract them,” added Reaser.

Over 16,000 people joined or rejoined San Diego’s labor market in October. The labor pool is still nearly 32,000 or 2% smaller than its pre-pandemic peak.

Industry Hiring

San Diego firms boosted hiring by 11,500 employees after adjusting for the normal seasonal ebbs and flows in October. While this was less than half of the unadjusted 27,500 gain, it still represented the largest increase since July.

Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower West, said, “The even better news is that the growth was especially strong in the core business services category, which sends the message that companies are actively hiring for growth. Leisure continues to expand for the holiday season and hospitality sites are reopening.”

“Private companies in almost all industries added people to their payrolls in October,” observed Reaser. Supported by large gains in education, government hiring also moved ahead. Restaurants and bars added 4,400 workers to their payrolls as they struggled to keep up with consumers eager to gather with friends and family. Employee staffing firms added 7,000 workers to their payrolls as companies looked for temporary hires to fill some of their large number of open positions.

Blair continues to see companies struggling to fill open positions. “People are quitting their jobs as never seen before to seek other opportunities, while firms are poaching workers from other companies. Employees clearly have the upper hand in this job market,” he said.

San Diego outperformed both the State and Nation last month with a 0.5% job advance versus California’s 0.3% rise and the U.S. increase of 0.2%. San Diego still has sizable ground to make up to recover the pandemic inflicted losses. Total employment in the County stands at 94% of its pre-Covid-19 peak of February 2020. California’s job total is at 95% of its pre-pandemic level, while the nation is at 97% of its pre-COVID high.

As of October, all of San Diego’s major sectors have climbed to 80% or more of their pre-pandemic peaks. Professional and business services, utilities, and construction have fully recovered or surpassed their pre-pandemic levels. Private education employment stands at 82% of that level, while leisure and hospitality also lags at about 85% of its prior staffing numbers.

Outlook: Promising

Job gains should be strong and accompanied by falling unemployment through the end of the year, according to Reaser. ”While inflation is a problem, consumers have money to spend. Companies need to fill backorders while restaurants are anxious to fully open their businesses.”

“We’re grateful to see that employment continued to grow in October towards the pre-pandemic high”, said Daniel Enemark, senior economist for the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “This is an excellent time for San Diegans to find a quality job or upskill to earn more.” The Workforce Partnership is recruiting for programs to employ youth in the City of San Diego and to upskill workers interested in tech careers.

Blair concludes, “This continues to be one of the best times in history for employees and people looking for work. They should take advantage of the many doors that have now opened to them.”

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