State of SF Economy: Tech Booming, Unemployment Low, But Tourism and Hospitality Still


The SF unemployment rate is a fabulously low 2.9%, but the FiDi is still a ghost town, and SF’s economic recovery lags behind that of other cities, according to a new report from the Office of the Controller.  

It has been a fact of life through the pandemic that tech companies are making bank, while the overall economy has been shakier. But other sectors are starting to improve, and unemployment is at a pretty historic low. Still, two of the main drivers of the San Francisco economy are tourism and office workers spending money downtown. And both tourism and the downtown SF economy are still moribund, according to a 23-page Status of the Re-Opening of the San Francisco Economy report from the city’s Office of the Controller

“The only industry that’s doing better in San Francisco than it was before the start of the pandemic was the tech industry,” the city’s Chief Economist Ted Egan sums it up to the SF Standard.

Image: SFController.org

As seen above, SF’s office vacancy rate is still well above 20% (it was 6% pre-pandemic!).  Sure, many of us could care less whether corporate landlords like CB Richard Ellis are making their money. But you’ve got to feel for small downtown shops like Lee’s Sandwiches, or your favorite downtown bars, who are getting financially hammered by this ongoing absence of foot traffic.

Image: SFController.org

And while the trends mirror what’s happening across the country, it is worse here than in large metros. See above how SF lags well behind other cities like Austin, Los Angeles, and New York in people showing up to work at the office. That said, we cannot help but mock our supposed tech-hub replacement Austin, Texas for their precipitous drop last January and February because their dumbfuck governor can’t reliably run a power grid (which by the way, is happening again right now). Hope you don’t have to burn any furniture to stay warm, Elon!

And that’s just one of the reasons we’re skeptical of these “sky is falling in San Francisco” narratives. Yes, we are slower to return to the office than other cities, and the big conferences still are not returning. But unemployment is exceedingly low, and our minuscule COVID-19 death rate should be (but isn’t) the envy of the nation. Low unemployment and low mortality rate are trade-offs that I would take any day.

Image: SFController.org

And hey, the rents are still wayyyy lower than before the pandemic, so that certainly doesn’t suck.

Related: SF Unemployment Rate Dips to Just 3%, But More Still Unemployed Than Before Pandemic [SFist]

Image: @ibidsy via Unsplash



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