Economic Profile 2020: Bay Area Economic Recovery Tracker
As economies across the U.S. begin to recover, jobs in some industries and geographies are growing, while others continue to see losses. In an effort to understand the health of the Bay Area economy throughout the COVID-19 recession, this page will track regional recovery and provide monthly updates using data from the California Employment Development Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics, tracking the Bay Area’s recovery by industry and compared to other geographies.
COVID-19 has created lasting impacts on local, regional, and national economies. In early 2020, several industries including the airline, restaurant, and tourism industries were deeply affected by shelter in place mandates and travel guidelines. Today, these effects have transferred to other industries, leading to layoffs, furloughs, and hiring freezes as budget cuts become the new normal.
Most Bay Area industries have begun to show signs of recovery, but some industries have experienced recovery significantly faster than others. The Construction industry has had one of the most pronounced recoveries – as of October, it had rebounded to 99 percent of January employment. This is in large part due to new safety guidelines that were put in place to allow construction workers to return to job sites.
Other industries have experienced a slow recovery. In April 2020, employment in Leisure and Hospitality was half of what it was at the start of the year, it then began to recover over the summer, but as of January 2021, the industry has has seen another significant loss of employment. Despite attempts at reopening, job recovery in the Leisure and Hospitality industry continues to be a challenge, as travel and lockdown guidelines continue to change.
Employment in Financial Activities, and Professional and Business Services industries have seen smaller overall changes in employment since January, with many workers in these industries able to work from home or classified as essential workers. However, as of January 2021, both industry’s saw employment fall again.
While the Bay Area lost less employment at the onset of the COVID-19 recession compared to the U.S., the region has recaptured less of the jobs lost as of January than the country overall. Compared to other major geographies, the Bay Area’s employment recovery has been middle of the pack – recovering faster than New York and Los Angeles, but slower than Denver, Seattle, and Austin. As of January 2021, the Bay Area has fallen behind California as a whole in terms of share of pre-pandemic jobs recovered.
Examining job losses by industry provides more nuanced insight into the COVID-19 recession recovery compared to previous periods of economic recovery in the region. Unlike past recessions, the decline and recovery of employment from the COVID-19 recession has been shaped by which types of businesses can operate remotely during extended economic shutdowns. This impact is reflected in the rate of recovery across different industries.
During the Great Recession, Professional and Business Services, Manufacturing, and Construction industries saw the steepest declines in employment. From the lowest level of employment in the Professional and Business Services industry during the Great Recession (May 2009), it took four years (until May 2012) for the industry to recover the number of jobs it had prior to the recession. In contrast, as of December 2020, the industry had already recovered to pre-COVID-19 recession employment, but since then has seen another decline in employment into the start of 2021. This underscores the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 recession.
At the end of the Great Recession in July 2009, Leisure and Hospitality employment was down by 5 percent from the previous year. In comparison, as of January 2021, Leisure and Hospitality employment levels were down by 48 percent year-over-year. This indicates the unique economic challenges of the COVID-19 recession compared to previous recessions, particularly by small businesses and organizations that cannot operate efficiently or as efficiently remotely.