An illustration of the coronavirus. Courtesy National Institutes of Health

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may cost the region’s economy more than $12.4 billion in 2020, according to a report released Thursday from the San Diego Association of Governments.

According to the SANDAG report, which looks at the first six months following stay-at-home orders, $4.8 billion in wages were lost and more than 176,000 people in San Diego County lost their jobs. The report also found that a disproportionate impact of job losses landed on women, minorities, lower- income earners and younger employees.

Compared to March, the report found in July there were 23% fewer lower- income employees — those making less than $27,000 a year. A total of 80% of jobs lost came in the tourism, retail and education sectors.

Middle-income jobs — those earning between $27,000 and $60,000 — are down 8.5%, while high income jobs — those earning more than $60,000 — are down just .8%. The report found that the immediate impact for low-income jobs was greater and it will likely take longer for those jobs to recover.

According to the report, “additional disparities include females being more likely to experience a job loss in the education sector, and younger workers and those who identified as Hispanic being more likely to lose jobs in the tourism sector.”

One-fifth of women who lost jobs were in the education sector, and two- thirds of workers between the ages of 16 and 24 who lost work were in the tourism sector. A full half of Hispanic workers who lost work were also in the tourism sector.

The San Diego region’s gross regional product for 2020 was projected to be more than $270 billion, 2% higher than 2019’s GRP of $265 billion. Now, SANDAG reports, the economy is projected to contract from 2019’s numbers by 4.7%, or $12.4 billion. Counting the growth projected by SANDAG Chief Economist Ray Major before the pandemic struck, that’s closer to a 7% loss, or $18.5 billion.

However, SANDAG also projects growth in 2021 of 4.2% in the GRP, which could bring the region’s economy back to 2019 levels. It’s not a salve for the thousands of workers without jobs, but it’s better than the 7.8% loss — with projected growth, a 9.8% loss — of gross regional product economists projected for the year in June, according to the report.

COVID-19 is far from gone, and as San Diego County flirts with illness statistics near the most-restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s four- tier reopening plan, experts said another lockdown could significantly impact the SANDAG-projected numbers.

— City News Service

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