USNS Mercy passes downtown hotels at the beginning of the pandemic. Photo by Chris Stone

The unemployment rate in the San Diego-Carlsbad Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped to 6.6% in November, down from 7.5% in October and above the year-ago estimate of 2.9%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The statewide unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.9%, down from 9% in October. The rate is 6.4% for the nation, down from 6.6% during the same period.

Although the rate dropped, a large reduction in the number of people looking for work was largely responsible for the decline, particularly among women who have dropped out of the workforce to care for children or elderly parents, according to the San Diego Workforce Partnership. Even at its current level, the unemployment rate is more than double its pre-pandemic level.

According to the EDD, total non-farm employment in San Diego County increased by 14,300 jobs month-over-month — from 1,412,000 to 1,426,300 — while farm employment contracted from 9,500 to 9,200.

The region lost 97,700 non-farm jobs and 400 agricultural jobs over the year.

The region’s unemployment rate rose to 15% in May during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to EDD data, while data from the San Diego Association of Governments showed rates of nearly 30% unemployment in May.

The November data reported Friday does not include the impact of regional stay-at-home orders imposed in regions with fewer than 15% of their intensive care unit beds available. Thursday’s data from the state claimed Southern California had filled its ICU beds as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, but San Diego County health officials reported 16% of local beds were still available.

Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University, said times are difficult now, but there will be an end to the pandemic.

“The winter solstice underscores an ominous time for San Diego’s economy,” Reaser said. “Many retailers, restaurants, gyms, and personal care businesses will lay off workers or go out of business during the next two to three months.

“Just as the days begin to have more light, however, so will the economy. By late spring or early summer, widespread vaccination will enable a major economic rebound throughout the region,” she said.

Trade, transportation and utilities led all industry sectors in month- over-month job gains at 8,200. Retail trade, up 6,500, and transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 1,800, logged increases in jobs. Within the category of retail trade, clothing and clothing accessories stores — gained 1,500 — and general merchandise stores — up 1,200 — were large contributors to month-over job gains. Wholesale trade payrolls marginally decreased by 100.

Professional and business services added 2,800 jobs to payrolls and administrative, support, waste management and remediation services posted 1,900 month-over employment gains, followed by management of companies and enterprises — up 500 — and professional, scientific and technical services — up 400.

Also adding to payrolls was the government with 1,300 jobs added, financial activities with 1,100, educational and health services with 1,000, manufacturing with 600 and construction up 300 jobs.

The hard-hit leisure and hospitality industry lost 900 jobs, and other services posted a net loss of 100 jobs in the past month.

Mining and logging employment levels remained unchanged.

Comparing year-over-year, leisure and hospitality continue to top the list in jobs lost, with a total of 45,100 jobs lost since last November — 35,300 of which came in accommodation and food services.

Since the same time last year, government lost 17,500 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities 12,000; educational and health services 10,400; other services 9,500; manufacturing 6,400; information 3,700; and financial activities 2,400.

Professional and business services gained 7,300 new jobs and construction grew payrolls by 2,000 year-over-year.

Updated at 2:57 p.m. Dec. 18, 2020

— City News Service