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A commenter over at Piggington (my own little internet stomping ground) raised an interesting point in regard to last month’s article on San Diego employment. The reader noted that the monthly data I cite measures the number of jobs held in San Diego with no regard for whether the job holders are actually San Diego residents. There is a separate data series that tracks the employment status of San Diego residents whether they are employed in the county or elsewhere. And, for the time being, the two job surveys are providing mixed signals.

The orange line on the accompanying chart displays the year-over-year rate of change in the number of employed people in the county’s labor force — in other words, the number of people living in San Diego who have jobs somewhere. The blue line denotes the annual change in payroll jobs at San Diego companies, regardless of whether the job holders live in San Diego or not.

As discussed in last month’s update, the annual rate of change in the number of San Diego payroll jobs has improved for two months in a row. The chart shows that the same cannot be said for the annual change in number of employed San Diegans, which hit a new low in September.

The two series’ behavior was different in 2008, as well. While the annual payroll change slid down in a more or less straight line, local labor force employment actually recovered and went positive for much of 2008. Now, on the other hand, the labor force employment series is comparing to much stronger year-ago numbers, so its annual pace is looking even worse than that of the job series.

I have used the so-called “establishment survey” data (the data reflecting local jobs without regard for where job holders live) in my monthly analyses because it breaks employment down by industry and allows for more detailed analysis. But it is the results of the “household survey” that arguably matter more for the local economy. People tend to spend money where they live, and by definition, they buy houses where they live. It seems that the employment status of people living in San Diego, not the number of people working in San Diego but potentially living elsewhere, would exert the larger effect on local economic activity. And by that measure, it seems that the annual rate of change has not gotten any better after all. Both series tell us something different and both bear watching.

All that said, I must add that I am kind of shocked by and a bit skeptical of the household survey data for 2008. It is hard to believe that employment among San Diego residents was growing at over 1 percent per year at a time when payroll jobs in San Diego were shrinking by over 1 percent and the world as a whole was pretty much plunging into economic oblivion.

That apparent discrepancy will be the topic of a future blog entry.

— RICH TOSCANO

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