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May 20, 2022

Workforce Partnership senior economist Daniel Enemark analyzes April’s labor market trends.

San Diego County’s unemployment rate in April was 3.0%. For context, 2.9% is the lowest rate recorded this century, and our rate has reached that low in only three out of 268 months. In other words, this labor market is extraordinarily tight. The seasonally adjusted rate was 3.2%, down from 3.5% in March.

LMI April.1

Leisure & hospitality “roar back”

Leisure & hospitality led the employment gains last month, with 2,700 new jobs in food services & drinking places, 800 new jobs in accommodation and another 800 in arts entertainment & recreation. This is a great sign that our tourism economy continues to recover from the pandemic recession. Total employment in these sectors was 193,800—98% of the pre-pandemic high of 197,800 and an incredible achievement for a collection of industries that shed over half of their workforce in March 2020.

Phil Blair emphasized the importance of this development: “San Diego’s leisure economy has come roaring back, and it will continue to build during our very busy summer tourist season. This has been the most struggling sector of our recovery and it has finally kicked in with 4,300 new jobs. We forget that the tourism sector is an enormous part of our county’s economy.” Indeed, leisure & hospitality accounts for nearly 13% of our jobs—even more than retail. And it typically peaks in August, so we hope to see employment continue to climb.


The second largest gain was in government employment (up 1,500). Government is an often-overlooked sector, but is the largest employer in San Diego, providing 247,100 (16%) of the region’s 1.5 million jobs. If you know a young adult interested in a career in public administration, the Workforce Partnership is currently recruiting for paid internships at the County beginning in August.  

An unsurprising dip in the labor force

A minor cause for concern is the decrease in the overall labor force. Almost 20,000 San Diegans left the labor force last month, but that is fairly typical; the labor force has shrunk every April for the last 12 years, with a median decrease of 12,700. The seasonally adjusted numbers decreased by just 1,400, from 1,588,200 in March to 1,586,800 in April. Nonetheless, we want to see the labor force growing as San Diegans bounce back from the pandemic, and we’ll continue to track this number.

Finally, following up on last month’s analysis, we’re happy to see construction bounce back with 1,200 new jobs. San Diego has a housing affordability crisis and new construction—residential more than commercial—is desperately needed.

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