Employment

Economic Development

New Data from U.S. Census Shows (Mostly) Broad and Steady Employment Growth, Highlights Changing Nature of Bay Area Economy

Construction on the San Francisco Skyline
Karl Nielsen

The latest U.S. Census data from the 2016 County Business Patterns series shows continued overall growth for the nine-county Bay Area in employment as well as the number of business establishments. While the news is mostly good, the data also reveals some soft spots, and further highlights some of the disparities that have developed between different parts of the Bay Area, as well as between different industries.

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the latest data to look at:  

  • Bay Area Employment, or the number of employees as of the First Quarter of a given year, and
  • Bay Area Business Establishments. 

This data will be broken down by County, Bay Area Subregion, and Industry Sector. Data will be presented from 2005, 2015 and 2016. Tables will be followed by discussion and comments. For more information on the County Business Patterns annual release, visit the data series page the U.S. Census website. Read More

Transportation

Self-Driving Trucks and the Demand for Truckers

Cordelia Truck Weigh Station
Karl Nielsen

Whenever self-driving vehicles come up, the question of long-term employment impacts is never far behind: What happens to the millions of people who drive for a living? Although this jumps over a lot of feasibility issues in terms of how likely truly autonomous and connected vehicles are, it’s a crucial consideration. The effects on industries and people’s livelihoods will have all kinds of implications, whether economic, political, regulatory, social or technical – and these will all have feedback effects in determining whether, when and how the driverless utopia happens.

Over at The Atlantic there’s an interesting take looking at the trucking industry, suggesting that self-driving trucks could actually be good for truckers, as opposed to resulting in technological unemployment on a massive scale:

“We’ve been disappointed over the last year to see a lot of stories about how self-driving trucks are going to be this huge problem for truck drivers,” says Alden Woodrow, the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber. “That’s not at all what we think the outcome is going to be.”

For one, Uber does not believe that self-driving trucks will be doing “dock to dock” runs for a very long time.

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Housing

Large Homebuilder Pulls Out of North Bay Rebuild Effort

North Bay fires

We recently discussed how record low unemployment across the Bay Area combined with a severe housing shortage could create unexpected challenges for the region, especially as relates to achieving ambitious policy goals that involve significantly increasing housing-related construction activity. Late last week brought unfortunate confirmation of the broader dynamics involved here, with news that a large homebuilder was pulling out of plans to rebuild homes lost during the North Bay wildfires. 

The reason? Financial feasibility concerns driven by a "general labor shortage in home construction" and – in particular – a lack of local framers. From the Press Democrat:

“Our fear is that this is a bellwether of the way things are going to go,” [said Jeff Okrepkie, chairman of the Coffey Strong neighborhood rebuilding group].

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Policy

Record Low Unemployment Across (Much of) the Bay Area, and the Delicate Policy Dance That Follows

SF-Oak-Hay unemployment

The Bay Area economy has mostly had a good run since the dark days of the Great Recession (although the benefits have been uneven and not without their complications). For all the hype about the latest tech boom and the length of the current expansion, however, many key regional economic measures had not surpassed records set during the dot-com era nearly two decades ago. 

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (via FRED) indicate this is starting to change, though. To wit: most key urbanized areas (or MSAs) in the region are at or near record low unemployment levels. As shown in the above chart, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA is now at 2.8 percent, a level last seen during a heady pre-millennium stretch from July to December of 1999.   Read More