Unemployment rate in California. Photo credit: wycokck.org.

The unemployment rate in San Diego County area rose to 8% in December 2021, up from 6.6% in November and well above the year-ago unemployment rate of 2.8%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The statewide unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.8%, up from 7.9% in November. The rate is 6.5% for the nation, up from 6.4% during the same period.

According to the EDD, total non-farm employment in San Diego County decreased by 5,300 jobs month-over-month — from 1,424,900 to 1,419,600 — while farm employment contracted from 9,200 to 8,600.

According to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, this loss of jobs over the holiday season is atypical, and last year was particularly hard on those making less than $41,000 a year.

Correcting for the typical seasonal swings, the loss was somewhat less at 3,500, but still broke a string of four consecutive monthly gains.

“December saw a surge in people looking for work,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University. “Unfortunately, not all of them could find work, while others were laying off staff.”

That cohort of workers is at less than 80% of the employment of one year ago, while higher-income jobs have recovered between 94% and 97% of last year’s employment numbers.

“We’re concerned that low-wage workers continue to be disproportionately affected by the COVID recession. Today’s data show the hardest-hit industries are those with low average annual wages,” said Daniel Enemark at the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “Patching the social safety net with new funding for unemployment insurance and direct payments to households as recently passed by Congress comes at a critical time.”

The region lost 105,600 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.

Leisure and hospitality experienced the largest month-over decline with a reduction of 9,600 jobs. Accommodation and food services — down 10,300 – – accounted for all of the employment reduction, with the majority of the decrease concentrated in food services and drinking places — down 8,800. Arts, entertainment, and recreation posted an increase of 700 jobs.

Five other industries reported a reduction in employment including other services, down 1,700 jobs; government, with 1,500 jobs lost; manufacturing with 800; educational and health services, with 200; and financial activities, down 100. Mining and logging remained unchanged.

Construction led all month-over job growth, with an addition of 3,200 jobs. Specialty trade contractors contributed the bulk of additions, with 2,200, primarily in foundation, structure and building exterior contractors, with 1,200 jobs added.

Trade, transportation and utilities increased by 2,800 jobs. Retail trade boosted the overall sector with a 1,900-job increase. Transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 700, and wholesale trade, up 200, completed the payroll gain.

Leisure and hospitality reported the largest year-over-year decline with a loss of 53,000 jobs. The majority — 82% — percent of the cutback was concentrated in accommodation and food services with a loss of 43,700 jobs, specifically in food services and drinking places, down 30,100. Arts, entertainment and recreation reported a loss of 9,300.

Government declined by 16,700 jobs year-over-year, trade, transportation and utilities lost 12,000, education and health services 11,400, other services 10,000, manufacturing 8,500, information 3,400 and financial activities 2,900.

Professional and business services and construction are the only industries to report year-over job additions with 9,100 and 3,200 jobs gained respectively.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. Jan. 22, 2021

City News Service

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