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San Diego Unemployment Rate Falls to a Pandemic Era Low

Region’s Civilian Labor Force Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels

By Joshua Ohl CoStar Analytics March 28, 2022 | 11:55 AM

The unemployment rate in San Diego fell to its lowest level in February since March 2020, hitting 4% on the nose. That’s down from 4.7% in January and compares with the unadjusted rate of 4.8% for California, according to the latest report released by the California Employment Development Department.

Between mid-January and mid-February, San Diego added 16,500 to nonfarm payrolls. Professional and business services led the region in hiring with 6,100 more positions. While the professional, scientific and technical sector has driven much of the recent growth in this sector, new administrative roles accounted for 5,600 of the new positions.

Although the professional, scientific and technical subsector only added 400 jobs, it has grown by nearly 10,000 new jobs in the past 12 months. That number is expected to remain elevated given that leasing activity among biotech firms, in which many of these positions fit, have been driving commercial demand for both office and flex space. As many of those firms begin to occupy expansionary space, hiring should rise.

Leisure and hospitality added 4,200 more positions as the industry struggles to refill jobs lost amid the pandemic. Hotel occupancy reached 66.8% in February and should continue to rise as the tourism season kicks in. Further labor gains in the sector are likely as job seekers return from the sidelines amid decreasing COVID numbers.

On a year-over-year basis, San Diego added 104,300 jobs, an increase of 7.5%. Leisure and hospitality was the clear front runner, with 52,700 added to payrolls. Professional and business services was next with 21,100, followed by government adding 10,100 jobs.

Overall, every sector added jobs in the past 12 months. But benchmarking the labor market to February 2020, the month prior to the onset of the global pandemic, shows that the county still has a ways to go to fully recover.

The region is still at a deficit of 24,900 jobs, led by the lingering dent in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is down 14,000. Only one employment sector has fully recovered, business and professional services, which has added 19,300 to payrolls since February 2020. The construction sector is closing in on a full recovery and may reach that point in the coming months.

The latest jobs report also provides a hopeful glimmer that recovering those final payrolls could accelerate in the coming months. February was the first month in the past two years that the civilian labor force returned to its pre-pandemic level locally.

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