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San Diego Added More Jobs, but Hiring Has Slowed

Only 2,000 Workers Were Added to Local Payrolls in May

By Joshua Ohl CoStar Analytics June 21, 2021 | 6:43 P.M.

Although San Diego added more jobs in May according to the latest release by the Employment Development Department of California, hiring was relatively lackluster, with only 2,000 added to local payrolls. That brought the unemployment rate to 6.4%, down from a revised 6.7% in April.

San Diego’s leisure and hospitality sector once again paced the region, adding 3,900 to payrolls, with 3,100 of those positions in accommodation and food services. That comes as the hotel occupancy rate continues to rise, now exceeding 62% compared to only 38% a year ago during the pandemic. Tourists are expected to return in waves during the summer now that statewide COVID-related restrictions have largely been eliminated.

Even as the leisure and hospitality sector added the most local jobs for the fourth straight month, the sector has a long way to go to recover the number of jobs it had prior to the pandemic. It is still roughly 50,000 jobs short of that level.

The San Diego retail market has endured falling occupancies, with negative net absorption — measuring the difference between move-ins and move-outs — piling up to more than 1.3 million square feet in the past 12 months. The vacancy rate has reached its highest level in nearly a decade. In a market where many businesses have re-opened to full capacity, many are struggling to find enough workers to fill openings. Referral fees, bonuses and pay raises are among the enticements that businesses are offering to attract workers.

The construction sector fell by 1,200 jobs since April, with specialty trade contractors accounting for half of those losses. Business and professional services also fell by 2,500 positions, with more than 2,000 of those losses confined to administrative and support and waste management.

On a year-over-year basis, San Diego has added 119,500 to payrolls, or 9.3%. But that comparison is against the height of lockdown orders in the spring of 2020. Instead, total employment since February 2020, prior to the pandemic, is still down almost 120,000.

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