Bay Area, California rocket to big job gains in February, post-COVID rebound widens
The Bay Area and California powered to sturdy job gains in February, officials reported Friday, accelerating their recovery from coronavirus-linked maladies.
The nine-county Bay Area added 22,500 jobs last month backed by big increases in the East Bay and the San Francisco-San Mateo corridor, according to the state Employment Development Department, while the state posted its strongest performance since the summer of 2021.
“Spring has sprung,” said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “Our economy’s strong underpinnings never went away, despite the pandemic.”
Santa Clara County added 4,800 jobs, the East Bay added 6,800 jobs, and the San Francisco-San Mateo region added 7,700 jobs. All the numbers were adjusted for seasonal variations.
“The Bay Area job recovery continued in February and should continue with the relaxation of COVID restrictions,” said Steve Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
Over the 12 months that ended last month, both the Bay Area and California outperformed the nation. Job totals increased by 6.4% in the Bay Area and 6.8% in California compared to 4.6% in the United States.
“Our growth continues to outpace the nation, and it is being driven by tech, which continued its expansion throughout all the months of the pandemic,” Hancock said.
California added 138,100 jobs, the state’s largest gain since July 2021, the EDD reported.
“With the lockdowns associated with the pandemic looking more and more like they are behind us, hiring is picking up in the areas that were most impacted by the pandemic,” said Mark Vitner, a Wells Fargo senior economist.
The statewide unemployment rate improved to 5.4% in February, compared with 5.7% in January.
California’s February gains accounted for 20.4% of all the jobs added nationwide, an analysis of reports from the EDD and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
The jobs added in the Bay Area and California in February marked yet another strong month in a string of increases. They also far exceeded the gains posted in January when the Bay Area added 9,400 jobs and California gained 60,300 jobs, the EDD reported.
Santa Clara County, the San Francisco-San Mateo region, the Bay Area and California all have now added jobs for 13 consecutive months, this news organization’s analysis of the EDD figures shows.
“It’s good to see the region picking up steam, and in the coming months, I expect things to continue to pick up as organizations accelerate return-to-work plans.” said Patrick Kallerman, vice president of research for the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “That said, we still have a long way to go.”
The Bay Area has regained 75.8 percent of the jobs it lost at the outset of the widespread business shutdowns at the start of the pandemic in March and April of 2020. Santa Clara County has recouped 79.7%, and the East Bay is not far behind at 79.2%. The San Francisco-San Mateo region has salvaged 71.4%, while California overall has recovered 87.2 percent of those lost jobs. The nation, however has moved faster with 90.4% of positions restored.
The Bay Area reported strong February gains despite an unusually feeble month in the typically strong tech sector. Tech companies cut 2,400 jobs in Santa Clara County, 1,500 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo region, and 100 positions in the East Bay, according to seasonally adjusted figures culled from the EDD report by Beacon Economics and UC Riverside.
The industries that fared best in February included sectors that were devastated by the business shutdowns.
Hotels, restaurants and drinking establishments added 12,200 jobs in the Bay Area, accounting for an eye-opening 54% of all jobs added in the region last month. San Francisco-San Mateo saw the biggest increases in the the hotel and restaurant sector with 5,200 jobs, Beacon and UC Riverside reported.
And Bay Area retailers added 3,400 jobs, including 1,200 in the East Bay and 1,000 in Santa Clara County.
It might be tough for the Bay Area and California to maintain February’s super-hot pace, warned Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with law firm Duane Morris and a former director of the state EDD.
“It is unlikely these job gains will continue at anywhere near this month’s rate,” Bernick said.
Among the chief hazards: the 7.9% annual rate of inflation that’s burning through the national economy and the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates swiftly to choke off inflation — and potentially cool economic and employment activity.
“There is no clear path to reducing the main threat to ongoing employment growth in California, the sharp rise in prices,” Bernick said.
Nevertheless, Hancock said the Bay Area appears poised to retrace its path back to the robust economy it enjoyed just prior to the start of the pandemic.
“As the restrictions are lifting,” he said, “we see that very same economy that we put in the attic back in March 2020.”
Full article by George Avalos: https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/03/25/bay-area-california-big-job-gains-february-covid-rebound-economy-tech/