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November 18, 2022

Minimal change in this month’s unemployment numbers

In October, unemployment in San Diego County rose very slightly from 3.1% to 3.2% (3.15% unadjusted, 3.17% seasonally adjusted)—a difference that could completely disappear depending on how the numbers are revised in the following month (each month we get preliminary estimates for the previous month, and revised estimates a month later).

Unemployment remains extremely low. Last year at this time unemployment was 5.1%. Once again, San Diego has lower unemployment than the state (3.8%) and the country (3.4%).

Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower San Diego observed that “The employment base in San Diego continues in flux. We see many coming into the job market attracted by higher wages and working remotely. And we see people continuing to leave the job market due to return to office requests, retirements and lack of affordable childcare services. In fact, childcare positions are the greatest in demand right now.” Childcare continues to be a challenge in San Diego, as highlighted in a report recently released by our local community colleges.

Comparing October to September, employment dropped by 6,300 and there were 5,300 fewer workers in the labor force, but the number of jobs rose by 13,600. How can that happen? Well, there are two different ways economists count employment: the number of jobs our industries provide (“industry employment”), and the number of our civilian residents who are employed (“civilian employment”). Industry employment can be higher because one civilian can have two jobs and unlike civilian employment, industry employment includes military jobs. Civilian employment can be higher because unlike industry employment, it includes business owners, self-employed individuals, unpaid family workers and private household workers.

So, when there are fewer people working but more jobs, that could mean that more people are working multiple jobs. But it could also mean that there are fewer business owners, self-employed individuals or household workers. A big jump in military jobs would also explain the discrepancy, however, last month saw a change in military employment of exactly 0.

Short-term dull, long-term interesting

While not much changed last month, the differences between this October and last were stark. We’ve seen incredible gains in Leisure and Hospitality (adding 18,500 jobs over the last 12 months) and Government (up 6,400 jobs over the last 2 months), two sectors that have not yet totally recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

We’ve also seen gains in Professional and Business Services (up 12,100 jobs over the last 12 months, 1,900 last month), which has not only restored its pre-pandemic job levels, but is growing slightly faster than it was before March 2020. In other words, we have slightly more jobs in this sector now than we would have if it kept up its 2019 growth rate without interruption. Professional and Business Services makes up 18.6% of employment in our region, compared to 15.5% statewide and 14.2% nationwide.

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