December will mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the Great Recession. Although economists declared it officially over in the summer of 2009, for many, it has yet to end.
An April Gallup poll revealed that more than half of Americans believe we’re still in a recession or depression.
But the good news, especially for San Franciscans, is that light is finally appearing at the end of a long tunnel. It’s been a tough slog, but there are economic reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
First and foremost, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in October — the lowest it’s been in San Francisco since February 2009. It reached as high as 10.1 percent in January 2010 and was still an unhealthy 9.5 percent at the beginning of this year. Nearly 3,000 more people were employed in The City in October compared with August.
In addition, inflation has been moderately low, and fewer adults are in need of assistance programs, according to the city controller’s August Economic Barometer. The vitally important tourism industry is rebounding as well, with increased flights into The City, higher hotel rates and more people taking BART into San Francisco on Saturdays.
Even a negative statistic for homeowners, like declining home prices, is actually a positive for prospective buyers no longer shut out of the market.
The City’s quality of life is improving as well. The controller’s biennial City Survey reports increased satisfaction with park buildings and grounds. As a result, San Franciscans are significantly more likely to visit city parks than residents in Boston, New York, Oakland, San Jose and Seattle.
Nearly four out of five San Franciscans are highly satisfied with their neighborhood libraries. Eighty-five percent of residents feel safe walking alone on neighborhood streets during the day, and nearly three out of four approve of the quality of city schools.
Believe it or not, the opinion of the cleanliness of sidewalks and streets has increased slightly from two years ago, up 5 percent for sidewalks and 1 percent for streets. And while most remain justifiably disgruntled about Muni’s lack of timeliness and reliability, 35 percent now rate Muni good or excellent, up 2 percent from two years ago.
All of which, of course, is not to say that everything is hunky-dory. Many significant problems remain, and San Francisco, the Bay Area and California have a long way to go before reaching the level of economic well-being that many enjoyed just three or four years ago.
But there are reasons for a bit of optimism this holiday season, including a volatile but generally rising stock market, decreasing household debt, declining gas prices, increasing consumer spending, fewer layoffs and increased hiring in the technology, tourism and professional services sectors.
Happy days may not yet be here again, but it appears the worst may be behind us. Let’s be thankful for the progress that has been made and enjoy our blessings.