Based on employment data through the second week of April, at which point the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was still picking up steam, the estimated number of San Francisco residents with a paycheck has dropped by nearly 92,000 over the past two months to 482,100 and the labor force has shrunk by nearly 36,000 for an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent.

As a point of reference, the unemployment rate in San Francisco maxed out at around 9.4 percent at the height of the Great Recession in January of 2010, at which point there were 45,400 fewer people employed in San Francisco than today.

Over in Alameda County, which includes the City of Oakland, the estimated number of employed residents has dropped by 127,600 over the past two months to 687,800 and the unemployment rate has just ticked over 14 percent.

Across the greater East Bay, including Solano County, total employment has dropped by 240,000 to 1,317,000 with a blended unemployment rate of 14.3 percent.

Up in Marin, the number of employed residents has dropped by 22,000 over the past two months to 114,500 with an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent. Employment in Napa is down by 10,000 to 61,200 for an unemployment rate of 15.8 percent. And employment in Sonoma County has dropped by 51,700 over the past two months to 199,800 with an unemployment rate of 15.3 percent.

Down in the valley, employment in San Mateo County has dropped by 72,600 over the past two months to 380,600 and employment in Santa Clara County has dropped by 133,600 to 894,500 for a blended unemployment rate of 11.6 percent.

And as such, total employment across the Bay Area – which peaked at a downwardly revised 4,113,700 this past October, which shouldn’t catch any plugged-in readers by surprise – has dropped by over 620,000 over the past two months to 3,449,700 and the labor force has contracted by 216,000 for an unemployment rate of 13.1 percent.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Notcom

    And one day the housing “crisis” disappeared…just like a miracle! Or not.

    The decline in the labor force would be more meaningful, I dare suggest, if we knew if people had actually left, versus just taking themselves out of the labor pool. (presumably for the short term)

    • Posted by Dave

      That’s the million dollar question. How many people will leave and, within that, how many high-income folk will leave. Restaurant/hotel/hospitality workers will leave as that industry will not come back for a long while. Many restaurants won’t reopen. SF restaurants were already struggling. But those workers impact the margins. Many live outside the city and those who live in the city live in in-laws or have roommates but are not holding up the exorbitant rents and home prices in SF.

      Tech workers hold the key. Already Stripe had announced the shuttering of its SF headquarters and a move to SSF. 1200 or more workers. Uber has laid off more than 500 and is rumored to be moving to Texas – several thousand jobs gone. Airbnb has laid off many. Twitter will shift to permanent tele-work and many expect a big chunk of their workers will move out of SF. Plus Twitter is rumored to be considering leaving the City. Its mid-Market tax break has ended. Many small start-ups are likely to leave. Right now the numbers are in the thousands. If they grow to 10K, 20K or more then tech jobs leaving SF will result in a significant price drop – both for condos/homes and for rents.

      For 5 years I have been noting the macro trend of tech shifting out of the Bay Area to smaller “hubs”. This will accelerate now. Just heard an ad on Blomberg radio out of Arizona. Beckoning SF and Bay Area residents to relocate there (Sidona, Flagstaff, Phoenix) as the quality of life is better, homes prices are half of what they are here and so are taxes. You will see an aggressive move by mid-size cities – wanna-be tech hubs – offering incentives to Bay Area companies to shift part of their workforces to those cities. Speaking of taxes – the hotel tax has collapsed indefinitely, transfer taxes have too as well as small business taxes. How the shortfall will be made up – more taxes. I would not be surprised to see an effort to get California to allow cities to enact income taxes. That would only accelerate the exodus from SF and the Bay Area and California.

      • Posted by Notcom

        Actually it’s the “half trillion dollar question

        But unlike others…ahem! …I’ll refrain from making predictions. The BA has certain advantages – education, healthcare, culture, climate…let’s see how good Phoenix looks in a month when the nighttime LOW is 20 degrees above the daily high here next week (during a heatwave) – that have long pulled it ahead of the pack. Past performance is not a guarantee of the future, of course, but hard facts, rather than endless anecdotes, speculation, or a (sic) Blomberg ad from (sic) Sidona wiil be necessary to convince people the game has changed,

      • Posted by 3daritst81

        Video chat, remote work, mid-size headquarters in various cities etc. have all existed long before COVID. Sure, now we ‘really have tested it’, and it kind of works, kind of doesn’t. It gets old fast, and I think a mix of office/home is in our future. The internal Facebook survey said only 20% would immediately move to a city of their choice. I’ll bet they don’t own homes here.

        So sure, some lower end jobs ($100k~) will move out – but they were moving out anyways before COVID. And, to offset that, 5G and tech is only going to explode in the next 10 years. This will be the counter point to people leaving.

        The Bay has more to offer than say.. Phoenix. IF you can’t afford to live here, sure.. move. If you have a place, I doubt you’ll leave. The bay has a way of getting its hooks in you long term. I’ve been here 11 years from another country.

        • Posted by jackson

          “only 20% would immediately move to a city of their choice. I’ll bet they don’t own homes here.”

          Only 20%?? For an immediate move? That’s huge. Prices are set on the margins and 20% of techies leaving would be a massive market shift. Of course people who own homes won’t immediately move. Selling a home and buying a new one is a huge hassle and even more so during a lockdown. But what happens as time goes by.

          • Posted by Dave

            I suspect that, at a more granular level, most of that 20% is comprised of renters. Remember most techies can’t afford to purchase a home in the Bay Area. That is a chief gripe. If one is a renter and is offered the chance to tele-work – say from the Foothills or South Lake Tahoe or Bend or Flagstaff or Santa Rosa – hell yes. Oh, but the weather some say – well some like four seasons and Bend or Flagstaff is not the Upper Peninsula. As for homeowners, not as much though I suspect the trend of techie/high paid workers in SF who own their homes to move to the burbs once they have kids will accelerate. Better quality of life and safer health-wise – not stack and pack.

          • Posted by 3dartist81

            There have been many surveys in the SF that have been saying “We’re going to leave in 5 years” forever. There is a big difference between claiming something on a survey and actually putting in the work to move.

            Meanwhile, since I arrived in California (10 years ago) the population went from 32~m to 40m+.

          • Posted by jimbo

            only 13% of SF in tech. If 20% of them move, which i doubt, we are still talking about just north of 2%

          • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

            As was said earlier in this very thread, prices are set on the margins and if 20% of workers in tech firms leave (because now they can work from locales with lower-priced costs of housing and management in the firms they work for now know it won’t affect productivity) that would represent a much larger impact that can be represented by their share of the overall population, because of course they are the ones most able to pay the exorbitant rents and home prices in The City.

            The ones who are being/have been laid off from restaurant/tourism/hospitality jobs simply won’t be able to pay commensurate rents, and if this scenario plays out, prices will have to drop unless a similarly highly-compensated cohort arrives in the short term to make up that gap.

          • Posted by Notcom

            The (small) number of people it takes to “move the market” can readily be judged by the number of houses on the market…which at the moment is fewer than a thousand. So “only…2%” (of a labor force of ~500K) comes to ~10K; obviously they’re not all going to move at once – if they even do – but it should be obvious it’s still a potentially destabilizing number

          • Posted by wilson

            “only 13% of SF in tech. If 20% of them move, which i doubt, we are still talking about just north of 2%”

            The logic error here is that only tech workers will move out. A few Wall St. CEOs have spoken about their firms plans to move to more remote work. And no doubt other professions will follow.

            And that is just professionals. There is no doubt that hospitality, restaurants, retail and the service industries will take huge hits with many jobs simply never coming back. Also the city of SF has a huge workforce, around 30k if I recall correctly, and the city budget will be put under serious strain from this crisis. Both with increased expenses for services and decreased revenue from workers and companies leaving the city.

          • Posted by jimbo

            brahma, a big portion workers are in their 20s and not buying home. Im not sure if that represents the group buying the most houses in SF

          • Posted by wilson

            Remember that even someone who rents is paying that rent to an owner. Whether or not the occupant is the owner, either way its less demand for housing.

      • Posted by mary_jane_jacobs

        Are all the restaurant and service workers going to move to Georgia to compete for coronavirus/diabetes jobs for $8 per hour at Waffle House?

        In what location do you think those industries are in better shape than San Francisco?

        Does it make sense to seek a new line of employment in a robust economic setting or in a feeble one?

        Not everyone is able to, but most people who live in California want to stay in California.

        • Posted by two beers

          I think MJ makes a good point. When the techbros and techtinas leave with their $20 avo toast and $100 haircuts, all the vacant $2500/mo. studios left behind will be snapped up by minimum-wage service workers, keeping rents sky-high. Of course, with the hospitality sector decimated (demimated?), there will be far fewer low-paying service jobs available (putting more downward pressure on wages), so all those minimum-wage workers will have lots of time to spend in the gig economy, ubering each other around to partake of San Francisco’s robust economic setting.

          • Posted by mary_jane_jacobs

            Where will the tech bros move to that will offer improved circumstances? You don’t even have to pay rent and can’t be evicted here.

          • Posted by AY

            Denver or Boulder. Austin or Dallas. Atlanta or Chicago. Charlotte or Durham. Washington or Boston.

          • Posted by nopa-sf

            AY, have you been to Charlotte or Durham? How about Atlanta/Washington summers and Boston/Chicago winters? Denver or Boulder – maybe. Personally even with all SF problems I’d not want to move anywhere except after retirement. Then – maybe Europe.

          • Posted by mary_jane_jacobs

            Why will there be tech jobs in those regional centers if there aren’t tech jobs in San Francisco?

          • Posted by 3dartist81

            MJ is right. Charlotte isn’t exactly affluent, and ‘with it’ international city with amazing weather, culture etc. Do you really want to move from a San Francisco to Atlanta and live in a suburb where it’s crazy hot and you can’t go hiking? Very doubtful. You get what you pay for.

          • Posted by sockettome

            They’re techbros. What do they care about culture or being in an international city? They are the most loathing people to ever set foot in SF.

          • Posted by Ohlone Californio

            Recruiters, marketers and salespeople for tech and pharma disproportionately make up the bro quotient. Most of them are not going to move away from where the talent and capital lives.

    • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

      Luckily, there’s a once-in-a-decade mandatory survey going on this year of where the resident United States population lives. We will know how many people are living in S.F. and The Bay Area in general in December, although comparisons to the actual population immediately prior to new coronavirus outbreak will be a bit more difficult.

      I strongly suspect that many of the folks who are out of the labor force, including those who are not U.S. citizens, are going to attempt to ride the recession out and if substantially more than about twenty percent of the pre-2020 population actually leave I will be surprised.

      • Posted by Dave

        I’d also be surprised if the population drops more than 20%. A 10% – 15% drop would not surprise me. The population today is 883K or so. A 15% drop would put the population at 751K. More in align with the historic norm. And much more sustainable. The population growth that has occurred in the 2000s has brought a sharp deterioration in the quality of life including the lowest affordability rate for housing, sky high rents, crowded streets tightly parked and one of the worst homeless problems in the country. The Avenues, West of Twin Peaks and other SFH areas of SF are never going to be up-zoned nor should they be. The population dropping to 750K, if that happens, will be serendipitous.

        • Posted by Jimbo

          The population is not going to drop by >10% . That’s absurd

        • Posted by heycarlos

          Never up zoned? Never is a long time and I’d argue all of it was up zoned with the new ADU laws that allow at least 1 to 2 additional units per lot single family lot.

        • Posted by Alai

          “Sustainable”… the city also needs to make its budget, or it’s not sustainable either. Saying that it becomes more sustainable with a dropping population is nonsense.

          • Posted by Notcom

            It depends a lot on who leaves – the old, the young, the needy… are, fiscally speaking, a drain on spending – and how govt responds – if it doesn’t cut staffing to match corresponding drops in revenue and/or demand, then population drops only exacerbate problems.
            Of course it’s hard to take seriously someone who keeps parroting the phrase “historical norm…population” when it’s fluctuated by a quarter million over the past four decades.

          • Posted by sockettome

            SF population has not fluctuated by a quarter million over the past four decades. In fact, it hasn’t fluctuated at all – rather it has steadily increased by about 200K. Dave is right, there is a historic norm for the previous six decades (1950 ~ 2010) that with fluctuations, netted an increase of only 30K.

          • Posted by Notcom

            The pop estimate for 1978 was 658,700…compared to ~900K today.. You want to ‘net gain’ over the past sixty years?? OK..fine. But why stop there ?? Let’s take Dave’s de-population theories to heart, use the past 90 years and argue the “norm” is +/-650K. Or how about a “Pandemic Special”, use 1920, and claim it’s +/- 500K?

            I’ll stick with my claim there is no “norm”, thanks,

          • Posted by sockettome

            What I take issue with, isn’t so much whether a “historic norm” exists, but rather your claim SF’s population fluctuated by a quarter million during the past four decades. It only went up – resulting in an increase of 202K. If it had fluctuated, that would be fodder for the existence of a historic norm.

            SF Population per the U.S. Census:

            1980 – 678,974
            1990 – 723,959
            2000 – 776,733
            2010 – 805,235
            2020 – 881,549 estimate

          • Posted by Notcom

            Agreed: “fluctuate” probably isn’t the best term. However, in my defense, the point here was really a reprise of a discussion five weeks ago – actually part of it – covering a longer period; so the first part of the series was
            1945 – 827,400 (special Census)
            1950 – 775,357
            1960 – 740,316
            1970 – 715,674
            Which combined with the second half is indeed – IMHO anyway – a “fluctuation”…albeit a non-random one.

  2. Posted by MyOddCommentHandle

    then i’ll be the first to say the market crashes somewhere between election day and when Biden takes office.

    we’d already have corrected if Trump didn’t push every big red button he could find.

    hold onto what you got and see what shakes from the default tree. plenty of starter condos and fixer upper SFRs for everyone and interest rates will be the icing on all our cakes.

  3. Posted by Plugger

    These people can’t afford to relocate, they just filled for unemployment. There will be no measurable population decline at all.

    • Posted by Chris Shawkd

      I don’t agree. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to stay. And those renters who can (like me), don’t want to live in the criminal, homeless zombie apocalypse that London Breed’s City Hall is growing. My Alamo Square neighborhood, which was previously an oasis in the middle of the city, just got its first tents. I’m done.

      • Posted by Freeloader

        I’m there almost daily and haven’t seen any tents near Alamo Square (I’m one block away at Scott and McAllister). Where are they?

      • Posted by Ohlone Californio

        What’s used to be? Alamo Square used to be pretty rough before it was an oasis in the middle of the city, as you put it. People used to get mugged at gun point there all the time in the late 90s early 2000s.

        • Posted by Jimbo

          Alamo square was the ghetto when I moved here in 1998

      • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

        I am fascinated by the implicit claim here that new tents going up in neighborhoods that previously didn’t have homeless encampments is London Breed’s sole fault. As if there were no homeless people before she because Mayor.

        Perhaps you haven’t noticed, Chris, because you are newly arrived in San Francisco, but every Mayor S.F. has had since Art Agnos has been less accepting of the criminal and/or drug-addicted homeless than the Mayor he or she replaced. No one doubts that few who can afford S.F.’s high living costs want to live near homeless encampments.

        When London Breed was elected in 2018, her platform centered on cleaning up homeless-related squalor and reducing quality of life crimes. Shortly after she was elected, she announced plans to provide an additional 1,000 beds for the homeless over the next two years, but at the same time targeted the relatively small group of people living on the streets who were beyond the point of assisting themselves with involuntary removal (conservatorship, which requires a judge’s permission). The figure I read at the time was that 12% of homeless drug addicts who use the services of the San Francisco Department of Public Health account for 73 percent of the costs.

        So if criminal homelessness is expanding, what that tells you is the problem is not amenable to changes in City policy that the Mayor can implement on their own. The Mayor is constrained by the infamous Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a ruling by activist judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the ordinary functioning of the late capitalist system which increases homelessness faster than The City’s resources can expand to keep up, among many other things.

        What are you doing, Chris, in response to the tents going up in Alamo Square? Did you lodge a 311 complaint? Did you contact the Homeless Outreach Team? If you did, what was the result?

        • Posted by Jimbo

          Any practice policy London breed Tries to implement gets cut off at the knees by the progressive supervisors and now our new DA. She is not the problem, they are. They refuse to arrest or prosecute dealers, gangs.. refuse conservatorship, refuse giving a choice of jail or rehab, refuse new housing. They are poverty pimps

    • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

      We’re talking about what will happen when large numbers of people are still unemployed after the temporary moratorium on eviction is lifted. Then a certain amount of people will presumably use their UI payments to fund their relocation because they won’t have a choice, assuming that UI payments won’t cover 100% of their living expenses.

  4. Posted by SF_resident

    I already know people who have moved or are seeking to relocate. They can use their unemployment to help them move and keep them getting money for a while. Some are just waiting to see if their jobs come back, but a lot of the people who work downtown at food services will not see their jobs come back, e.g. Specialty’s.

    I’m not sure what percentage will move, but it will probably be 5-8% in the short term (less than a year) as people cannot afford the rent and seek cheaper areas. The long term will depend on how many companies decide to use remote working scenarios. The more companies that allow that, the more people will move to cheaper areas even if it is Sonoma or farther out.

    • Posted by Anonymous Coward

      While Specialty’s financial situation may have precipitated their closure, I think management saw the writing on the wall. A significant portion of their revenue comes from catering. They likely predicted a material decline in catering income due to downtown offices having less in-person meetings. Add that to a decline in individual sales and you no longer have a viable business model.

    • Posted by Dave

      Even if it is Sonoma? Actually Sonoma, Napa, St. Helena and Petaluma are great locations. Plenty of room, good place to raise children and prefect weather. I could see a good numbers of techies who are allowed to permanently tele-work moving there. And to the Santa Rosa area where rents and home prices are among the lowest in the Bay Area.

  5. Posted by SBW

    Agreed – no working professionals, whether they’ve recently lost their job or just want to keep their job and move out of SF, is talking about moving to dreary places like Dallas, Durham or Atlanta. They’re all looking at Sonoma, Napa, Tahoe, Mendocino, Central California, where they can telework, commute to Bay Area offices every once in a while, keep most of their SF salary and have some more space and lower cost real estate while still enjoying California weather, wine, food, beaches, outdoors, liberal politics, etc.

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