Bay Area Economic Profile 2020

Tracking Impacts of the COVID-19 Recession on the Bay Area Economy


This Economic Profile, the eleventh in a series of Bay Area Economic Profile reports produced since 1997 by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute in partnership with McKinsey & Company, examines the region’s economic strength prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides recent data points that highlight the region’s experience during the recession and recovery. As previous reports have done, it benchmarks the Bay Area’s performance against other knowledge-based economies to assess the region’s national and global competitiveness. It also examines the economic and policy challenges that are likely to confront the region even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.


The COVID-19 pandemic has created lasting impacts on economies across the country, resulting in economic shifts that will have enduring effects on the global economy. Despite being one of the nation’s most resilient regions for the past fifty years, the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area similarly experienced unprecedented changes to the regional economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home to Silicon Valley and a thriving tech sector, the region’s unmatched economic strength provided years of economic growth leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regional economy’s strength leading up to the pandemic was due to factors such as the Bay Area’s unparalleled workforce, world-class higher education system, leading startup ecosystem, and opportunities created by the region’s concentration of venture capital. Despite the spectacular economic strength of the Bay Area, the region’s economic growth has also spurred challenges. The Bay Area has some of the highest housing costs in the world, and as a result the region faces a homelessness crisis and has become increasingly unaffordable for low-income residents. Both the strengths and the challenges faced by the Bay Area economy leading up to the pandemic have been reshaped amidst the pandemic landscape, and this economic profile offers insights into how those shifts have played out across the regional economy.

As private- and public-sector leaders shape the economic recovery through policy decisions, they must make data informed decisions. This report provides just such data and analysis. Each chapter provides data insights on different aspects of the regional economy. The report includes chapters focused on housing and transportation, venture capital and innovation, income inequality, higher education, regional migration, globalization trends, and labor force participation. The chapters provide data points that offer early insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted different aspects of the region and economy in 2020 to help the region plan for a strong and equitable economic recovery.

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