Bay Area, California COVID jobs rebound is stronger than first thought

Both the Bay Area and California as a whole are recovering far better from the mammoth job losses unleashed by coronavirus-linked business shutdowns than first thought, state government officials said Friday.

The rosier picture arrived as part of a report from the state Employment Development Department (EDD) that revealed robust job gains during January and revised, higher job numbers for the whole of 2021.

The nine-county Bay Area added 16,500 jobs in January, the EDD report showed. The region’s gains were led by sturdy increases in employment in Santa Clara County and the San Francisco-San Mateo region.

In January, Santa Clara County added 3,600 jobs, the San Francisco-San Mateo metro area gained 10,500 jobs, and the East Bay added 300 positions, the EDD reported. All the numbers were adjusted for seasonal variations.

California gained 53,600 jobs during January. The statewide unemployment rate was 5.8%, unchanged from December 2021.

Over the one-year period that ended in January 2022, California posted a 7.4% increase in non-farm payroll jobs, which greatly outpaced the nationwide increase of 4.7% during the same 12 months, according to the EDD report.

“California’s economic recovery last year was unprecedented,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday in a statement.

The Bay Area chalked up a 7.2% gain in total payroll jobs over the most recent one-year period.

The region’s year-to-year gains were fueled by increases of 9.7% in the San Francisco-San Mateo region and 6.6% in Santa Clara County. While outpacing the nation, the East Bay one-year increase of 5.6% lagged both the Bay Area and California.

California added 1.05 million jobs during 2021, which was 95,400 more jobs than the original January estimate for the number of positions gained in California last year. Similarly, in the Bay Area, the nine-county region added 235,500 jobs in 2021, which was 20,600 more jobs added than the EDD first estimated.

The changes in the estimates for the job gains during 2021 were reported as part of the EDD’s annual revision for non-farm payroll employment in California and all of its metro regions.

Job growth could remain robust through the rest of this year, said Taner Osman, research manager for Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting.

“With abundant job openings and more room to grow, we expect to see California’s labor market continue to outperform the national economy in 2022,” Osman said.

While the business shutdowns that began in March 2020 unleashed huge job losses, the governor believes the closure strategy was worth it to protect Californians’ health.

“Our approach has been to follow the science while supporting those hardest hit by the pandemic,” Newsom said. “It not only saved tens of thousands of lives, it got our state back to work faster and better than the rest of the country.”

Despite the job gains and the improved employment picture in California, the state’s workers still face a forbidding landscape due to the runaway inflation that has savaged the economy.

The inflation rate of 5.2% in the Bay Area is the highest in more than two decades, while the nationwide inflation rate of 7.9% marks the greatest yearly increase in four decades.

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