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December 17, 2021

San Diego’s labor market continued to improve in November with companies still looking for workers as the jobless rate dropped.


San Diego’s November jobless rate dropped from 5.3% to 4.6% this month after adjusting for seasonal volatility (calculated by PLNU), the same numbers as the unadjusted data. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since March 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning.

“This was especially promising since it was achieved during a month that saw another large number of people entering or returning to the workforce,” said said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.

A total of 8,600 people joined or rejoined San Diego’s labor market in November. The labor pool is about 19,000 or 1% smaller than its pre-pandemic peak.

Industry Hiring

San Diego firms boosted hiring by 5,200 employees in November after adjusting for seasonal changes. This was about a third of the unadjusted 15,000 job surge, boosted by large gains in such areas as retail.

“San Diego’s labor market is strong,” states Daniel Enemark, senior economist at the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “Unsurprisingly as we ramp up for the holiday season, November employment gains were strongest in retail, but opportunity abounds in every sector,” he observed.

Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower West, notes that labor participation is still below its pre-pandemic high in San Diego County while the number of available jobs remains high. “San Diegans are comfortable staying out of the job market until the right job, at the right pay and at the right time comes along. How long workers can hold out is a personal decision, but we know pay and flexibility are the key considerations,” he said.

“Companies continue struggling to find workers as people are spending record amounts of time weighing their job options,” observed Reaser. “People may now look for the stability and security of a payroll position at least to supplement their self-employed gigs,” she said.

San Diego outperformed both the State and Nation last month with a 0.4% job advance versus California’s 0.3% rise and the U.S. increase of 0.1%. While San Diego is making gains, the County still has a ways to go before fully recovering the pandemic inflicted losses. Total employment in the County stands at 94.6% of its pre-Covid-19 peak of February 2020. California’s job total is at 95.3% of its pre-pandemic level, while the Nation is at 97.4% of its pre-COVID high.

As of November, all of San Diego’s major sectors have climbed to 85% or more of their pre-pandemic peaks. Professional and business services, utilities, and construction continue to surpass their pre-pandemic levels. Retail trade, transportation and warehousing joined that group this month. Private education, leisure and hospitality, and wholesale trade are the only sectors under 90% of their pre-pandemic level, at 85%, 86% and 89% respectively.

Outlook: Promising, but Risks

The Omicron COVID-19 variant and inflation now pose the greatest risks to the economy as 2021 comes to an end and the new year begins. Omicron concerns and price increases running ahead of wage gains could crimp consumer spending. Business uncertainty about COVID-19’s persistence and profit margins may curb their immediate expansion plans for 2022.

“San Diego’s overall outlook remains positive, despite these risks. People are looking forward to enjoying the holidays and businesses need to catch up with backlogs,” she said.

Enemark sees this as an excellent time for young adults to explore new career possibilities or enter full-time employment. “If you know a youth interested in exploring the world of work, our School Break Externship and City of San Diego Mentorship programs are accepting applications. And young adults seeking full-time employment can always gain help at” he says.

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