San Francisco’s job market has contracted sharply over the past year in multiple industries, according to data shared by the Chamber of Commerce Monday.
With a 53% decrease in posted job opportunities since 2019, the food service and accommodation industry is one of several to experience a large drop during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data posted to the Chamber’s new Economic Recovery Data Dashboard. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry has seen a 68% drop, and the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry has seen a 54% drop.
“As we work towards getting our population vaccinated and look towards a future of recovery, we need to understand where San Francisco stands today,” San Francisco Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rodney Fong said of the dashboard, which was launched Monday to track economic trends in the City. “It is clear that our small businesses and their workers are still struggling.”
The large drop in employment opportunities in the food services industry is not surprising to Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
But Thomas said that while small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality sector have been “decimated” over the past year, the data may paint a picture that is more grim than the reality, because many restaurants are reaching back out to employees they previously had to lay off instead of listing new job postings.
“I think it’s indicative of the fact that there’s not a lot of new hiring … new places opening and new hiring,” Thomas said. “But we didn’t have to repost our jobs. We called back our team and said, ‘OK, you can come back now, we have a shift available.’”
Thomas says looking at unemployment rates is more important in understanding how the industry is suffering. Regional data shows that the restaurant industry has seen a 41.5% drop in employment since February 2020, while hotels and other accommodation have seen a 38.8% drop.
Thomas says she expects there to be an uptick in rehiring as San Francisco recently reentered the red tier, allowing for indoor dining at 25% capacity. Thomas, who owns Rosa’s Cafe and Terzo, has brought back two to three employees at each of her restaurants in the past week.
The outlook is not as good for the hospitality industry. Though they expect to see an increase in hiring, “without international visitors and large meeting and convention business driving hotel business, it’s anticipated that San Francisco won’t get back to pre-COVID levels of economic growth, or employment for our hotel workers, until at least 2024,” said Kevin Carroll, the president and CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.
“The dramatic drop in employment for hotel and hospitality workers is an obvious result of COVID as the majority of San Francisco hotels are still not fully open,” Carroll said. “However, as vaccinations continue to ramp up, we believe that pent up demand, especially in the drive-market, will help our hotels get back to further, although not full, employment.”
Thomas added that though the data paints an incomplete picture, it’s important to keep an eye on it.
“I think we should watch it really closely, because if we don’t see that pick back up, that means that new places aren’t coming online,” Thomas said. “And so we need to make sure that we have an environment where we can have the restaurants and the bars and everything survive in San Francisco.”
The Chamber’s dashboard also shows The City hit a historic 12.7% unemployment peak in May 2020, well above the previous record of 9.7% set in March 2010. Additionally, it shows a concerning decrease in the number of small businesses open, with the small business open rate down 51% compared to 2019 as of Feb. 10.
“The data we collected shows that our small business community is struggling to survive throughout this pandemic,” Fong said. “We will continue to fight for local, state and national relief to support our small businesses and their employees.”