The unemployment rate and size of the labor force help us understand how many people in the population are able to and interested in work and of that pool, how many are successfully finding work.
This page discusses two metrics that help us track the status of the labor force and employment in San Francisco:
- Unemployment Rate
- Labor Force
Unemployment rate measures the percentage of jobless San Franciscans who are looking for work compared to the total labor force.
The labor force is the total number of San Francisco residents aged 16 and older who are either employed or are looking for work.
The City tracks monthly unemployment and labor force data from California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). EDD data is only available for the whole City and cannot be broken down by demographics or smaller geographies. The data shown on the dashboards below is the most recent data available from EDD.
Why do we track these metrics?
The unemployment rate helps measure the health of the economy. It helps us track how many people may be unable to find work, and there may struggle to support themselves or their families.
Tracking the number of people participating in the labor force gives insight into how many people within the population are available to respond to employment opportunities created by businesses. The labor force does not include anyone who is not working and not seeking employment.
The size of the labor force tells us more about the workforce than looking at the unemployment rate alone. For example, what if San Francisco’s unemployment rate stays the same, but the size of the labor force drops? That would tell us that fewer people are looking for work in San Francisco than before and that this reduction in the labor pool has not had an impact on the percent of job seekers that are able to find work. We wouldn’t know that looking at the unemployment rate alone.
How do we interpret these metrics?
A low unemployment rate is one sign of a healthy economy. A high unemployment rate tells us that there are many people who are unable to find work.
The 2019 average unemployment rate was approximately 2.2%. After the pandemic hit San Francisco, the unemployment rate hit a high of 13.3% in May 2020. This was more than 6 times the pre-pandemic unemployment rate. Since then, the unemployment rate has steadily decreased. In April 2022, the unemployment was again 2.2%, the same rate as the 2019 average and continued to hover between 1.9% and 2.5% from that time. This suggests that unemployment in San Francisco has fully recovered since the start of the pandemic.
In February 2020, there were 590,400 San Franciscans in the labor force. The total number in the labor force dropped significantly during the start of the pandemic. Labor force numbers hit their lowest point in April 2021, with 56,600 fewer San Franciscans working or seeking work. As of July 2022, the number of San Franciscans in the labor force increased to 557,000 and has remained at or above 576,000 since that time. This indicates that the labor force is recovering, but there are still fewer people in San Francisco’s labor force now than before the pandemic.
Comparing Unemployment and Labor Force trends
In late 2022, unemployment had steadily improved since the onset of the pandemic. However, the number of people in the labor force has been slower to return to pre-pandemic levels
This data suggests that job seekers living in San Francisco have steadily become more able to find employment. However, businesses in San Francisco may still have faced challenges in filling their job opportunities, given the low unemployment rate and the smaller labor force.