County unemployment drops below 10% ahead of possible new restrictions

Business

San Diego’s beachfront Shore House restaurant advertises that it’s finally “kind of” open during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. Since late March, businesses have gone through an evolving series of shutdowns, partial re-openings and modified health orders. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego region’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.9% in August, a 2.5% drop from the previous month, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

According to the EDD, total non-farm employment in San Diego County increased by 20,500 jobs — from 1,350,800 to 1,371,300 — while farm employment added 100 jobs, from 9,500 to 9,600.

The coronavirus pandemic and related job losses loom large over the economy even as some industries resume business. The unemployment rate at this time last year was 3.4% and was just 3.1% in February, less than a third of the current rate.

While the decreasing unemployment is a positive sign, it did arrive partially because fewer people are looking for work.

“Many San Diegans are battling difficult choices in the work-life balance,” said Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower West. “We are seeing companies offering high-paying jobs — such as engineers and programmers — and lower-paying jobs — such as production line workers. The problem is that, whether someone can make $15 or $50 per hour, people are worried about safety and taking care of kids at home. Employers need to recognize employee concerns and meet them halfway.”

The data from the EDD does not reflect changing reopening tiers, or the fact that San Diego County could roll back reopenings by as soon as Tuesday because of rising COVID-19 numbers, which could throw the entire economy into a state similar to the months of March, April and May.

Lynn Reaser, chief economist for the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, said the county isn’t out of trouble yet.

“Following the relatively good news from August, the job market could get much tougher as we move into fall,” she said. “San Diego could be pushed back into California’s purple zone, the most restrictive one for business based on the governor’s new ranking for COVID-19 risk.”

The region’s unemployment rate rose to a record 15% in May, according to EDD data, while data from the San Diego Association of Governments shows rates of nearly 30% in May.

In August, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.6% from 13.7% and the nation’s decreased to 8.5% from 10.5%.

Government jobs led in local gains, with 6,800 jobs added to the region’s total. Professional and business services gained 5,300 jobs, construction gained 3,100, trade, transportation and utilities 2,600, other services 1,200, educational and health services 1,000 and financial activities and manufacturing both gained 500 jobs.

Leisure and hospitality and information were the only industries to post job losses, with 400 and 100 jobs lost, respectively.

Comparing year-over-year, the San Diego region has lost 135,800 non- farm jobs and 400 agricultural jobs. Leisure and hospitality continue to top the list in jobs lost, with a total of 60,100 jobs lost since last August — 43,900 of which came in accommodation and food services.

Since the same time last year, trade, transportation and utilities shed 17,100 jobs, government lost 15,400, educational and health services 13,000, other services 12,000, manufacturing 7,200, information 3,800, construction 3,600, financial activities 3,300 and professional and business services lost 300 jobs.

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