SANDAG Unemployment Analysis


In February 2023, the unemployment rate in the San Diego region reached 3.7%, equal to the month prior. According to data from the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD),* the regional unemployment rate is now lower than the pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, the February 2023 unemployment rate marks a year-over-year reduction of more than 9% and an astonishing 77% reduction from the record-high unemployment rate witnessed in May 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, SANDAG has produced a number of reports and InfoBits that provide critical information related to unemployment statistics, the impact of the pandemic on specific business sectors, and analyses of who the pandemic has impacted the most.

Policymakers, businesses, and members of the public can gain a better understanding of the pandemic's impact by examining the geographic distribution of unemployment in the region. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic created varied impacts across sectors and demographic groups. Low-wager earners experienced high rates of unemployment primarily due to social distancing rules that resulted in business closures. 
The COVID-19 pandemic also presented tremendous challenges for individuals and households without internet access. Areas that continue to face high unemployment rates are also the same areas with little to no broadband access identified in SANDAG's Digital Divide StoryMap: Digital Divide in the San Diego region.
  • SANDAG estimates are produced using California EDD’s Industry Employment & Labor Force data and Census Bureau’s 2018 Home Area Comparison Report by ZIP Codes (ZCTA).
  • With the January 2023 data release, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey updated the basis for industry classification from the NAICS 2017 basis to the 2022 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).
  • ZIP codes 92672 (San Clemente) and 92536 (Aguanga) have been excluded from the current and future iterations of this StoryMap because most of their geographical area falls outside of SANDAG’s regional boundary. ZIP codes 91931 (Guatay), 91948 (Mount Laguna), 92060 (Palomar Mountain), 92093 (UCSD), 92096 (CSUSM), 92161 (VA Hospital), and 92182 (SDSU) have been excluded due to unavailable census data for our estimates calculation. ZIP codes 91934 (Jacumba), 91962 (Pine Valley), 91963 (Potrero), 91980 (Tecate), 92004 (Borrego Springs), 92066 (Ranchita), and 92259 (Ocotillo) have extremely low labor force population and have been excluded for consistency with an input data used in calculation of these estimates. Military base ZIP codes have also been excluded.

Impact on Employment

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented disruption in San Diego's regional labor market. Following the initial stay-at-home order and subsequent public health measures, over 240,000 San Diegans found themselves out of work, causing the regional unemployment rate to balloon from 3.2% to 16.2% by May 2020. Since then, the region has been on a steady path towards recovery.

The San Diego region experienced a steady month-over-month decline in unemployment rate over the second half of 2021. This trend was briefly interrupted in January 2022 as the region responded to the COVID-19 Omicron variant; however, the regional labor market quickly returned to the pre-Omicron trend and reached a 30-year low unemployment rate of 2.7% in May 2022.

Between May 2022 and February 2023 the regional unemployment rate has increased by 0.8 percentage points. This increase has been driven by an additional 29,700 workers reentering the regional labor market rather than a decline in employment levels. This suggests the recent rise in the regional unemployment rate is caused by a continued recovery of the labor market rather than an indicator of a larger economic slowdown. 

While an unemployment rate of 3.7% signifies a significant recovery of the regional labor market, it's important to note that these gains have not been equally shared throughout the San Diego region. In line with previous work SANDAG published discussing the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on low-income and minority communities, we see strong geographic variation in the region's unemployment rate. For example, ZIP codes in the South Bay have an unemployment rate approximately 1.2 percentage points higher than the regional average, while East County ZIP codes have an unemployment rate approximately 0.4 percentage points higher*.

South Bay ZIP codes include: 91911, 91913, 91915, 91932, 92154, and 92173. East County ZIP codes include: 91901, 91941, 91942, 91945, 91977, 91978, 92019, 92020, 92021, 92040, and 92071.

Explore the Data

Use this interactive data visualization tool to explore unemployment estimates in the San Diego region by ZIP code.

For more information about each data set, click "View Source Data" in the visualization or download the dataset in original format from here.
This report is created, and updated by SANDAG's Data Science Department. For more information, contact the Public Information Office at .