San Diego employment has just decreased on a year-over-year basis, falling by 1,700 jobs between March 2007 and March 2008.

That is a very small drop in the grand scheme of things, representing a decline of just .1 percent. But it’s the first time in a long time that employment has turned negative at all. The data I pulled from the Employment Development Department website goes back to the year 2000, and it shows that even during the recession and slowdown that took place at the beginning of this decade, the weakest month showed a year-over-year increase of 2,300 jobs.

So even though we are not in an officially recognized recession, San Diego’s employment situation is worse than it ever got in the aftermath of the 2001 recession.

The culprits, as you might imagine, are the housing boom beneficiary sectors — the ones that grew like weeds in the midst of the housing frenzy and are now suffering in the bust.

Construction was hit the worst, declining for the year by 9,100 jobs or 10.3 percent. The finance sector, which includes real estate, lost 5,700 jobs or 7.0 percent. The retail sector, which was a more indirect beneficiary of the boom, was down by 1,400 jobs or 1.0 percent.

Outside these industries, employment was quite positive. Excluding the three housing boom sectors, local employment increased by 14,500 jobs or 1.5 percent. But the drag from the formerly high-flying housing boom industries was enough to drag the region into negative territory on the whole.

San Diego’s March unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, up from 5.0 percent in February and 4.2 percent a year prior.

— RICH TOSCANO

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