Tracking the San Francisco Bay Area’s Pandemic Recovery: The Latest Data and Long-Term Implications
Between extended economic shutdowns to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, work-from-home policies employed by Bay Area businesses, and a sharp reduction in travel, the region’s downtown cores have experienced a hollowing out of economic activity. As the region recovers, it has become clear that the pandemic has permanently changed how and where people work, how businesses think about their location decisions, and where households choose to live. These effects appear to be most visible in expensive coastal regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area.
To evaluate and track key indicators of economic recovery in the Bay Area, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and CBRE’s Tech Insights Center are partnering on a three-year, three-part series of interactive reports. The first part of this analysis, published below, tracks jobs, people, investment, economic activity, and costs measured by 1) an economic index tracking recovery across the nation’s 25 largest regions, and 2) a deeper dive into our region’s economic recovery.
Regional Economic Recovery Index
To better understand how our region fared compared to peer regions, we scored metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) on 14 different datapoints across 5 different metrics: Jobs, People, Investment, Economic Activity, and Costs. Twenty-five regions were selected based on the size of their 2020 regional gross domestic product (GDP), a typical measure of the size of a region’s economy. For a full list of regions and their GDPs, and a detailed list of metrics that went into the index, check out our data and methodology section.
Each region was scored by taking percentile ranks (wherein 0 is the lowest rank, 100 is the highest) of 14 different metrics. Austin scored 100 in the People category, meaning it had the highest rate of both population growth and labor force growth, the two metrics in that category. San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all scored the lowest because they experienced the greatest population and labor force losses given their pre-pandemic levels.
Austin, Texas ranked first across the 25 regions in our study, scoring an average of 86 (out of 100) across the 14 metrics we evaluated. Within these metrics, it ranked first (100/100) on 6 metrics: job growth, “knowledge worker” growth, population growth, labor force growth, net absorption, and new housing units per capita. It also scored high (second only to Denver) on change in sales tax revenue – experiencing an increase of $33 million (or 13%) from 2019 to 2021. These figures speak to the dramatic resilience and growth Austin, and Texas as a whole, experienced during the pandemic, while coastal cities like San Francisco and New York continue to suffer losses.