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April 15, 2022

Last month San Diego capped off one year of continuous declines in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate with a significant drop, from 4.0% in February down to 3.5%. The nominal rate was 3.4%, just half a percentage point above the lowest rate of the century (2.9% in May 2019).

San Diego County Unemployment Rate

Moreover, labor force participation grew by 7,500 to 1,596,800—just 3,800 (0.2%) shy of the pre-pandemic record high in February 2020. And since our population has decreased since then, the labor force participation rate has actually increased. So, it’s time to lay to rest the idea that workers are waiting on the sidelines.

San Diego County Labor Force

Phil Blair of Manpower West summarized the numbers succinctly: “San Diego is back! The biggest driver of growth is San Diego’s tourism and hospitality business roaring back as people feel increasingly comfortable going out. Plus, both convention and tourism business continue to claw their way back toward pre-pandemic levels.”

Indeed, leisure and hospitality led employment gains both month-over (5,000 new jobs) and year-over (49,900). Most of those month-over gains were in food services & drinking places (3,800) with another 700 in arts, entertainment & recreation and 500 in accommodations. We almost never see gains in every single sector, and in March the biggest employment losses were in healthcare & social assistance (down 1,300). But even this may be good news if the decline in employment reflects decreased demand amidst improved public health.

While construction lost 100 jobs, the seasonally adjusted numbers grew by 330, meaning that employment outpaced expectations for March. Blair emphasized the importance of a strong construction economy, “With our huge deficit in housing, we’d like to see many more San Diegans at work building homes and needed infrastructure. Hopefully we’ll see growth in hiring for construction workers in the coming months.”

And we do expect continued infrastructure investment as federal dollars continue making their way to San Diego. If you or someone you know is interested in helping literally build San Diego’s future, check out our Construction Career Jumpstart (CCJ) program. CCJ is a paid, four week training that prepares participants for a rewarding career in energy, construction and utilities.

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