How are jobs recovering in California, North Bay in the pandemic?

If you work in leisure and hospitality — hotels, restaurants, arts and entertainment — you know only too well the toll the pandemic has taken on the hardest-hit industry in the state.

But now, the industry that relies most on bringing people together is recovering jobs at a faster rate than any other sector in California, according to a recent report from the state’s Employment Development Department.

California’s leisure and hospitality industry has recovered 585,500 jobs, a 52.1% increase from its April 2020 low. Two-thirds of that net gain occurred over the six-month period ending in July 2021, according to the most recent data from the EDD, detailed in its 2021 Labor Day briefing report, released in September.

The report measured job losses between February 2020 and April 2020, and recovery between April 2020 and July 2021.

At its lowest, according to the EDD’s findings in the first two months of the pandemic, the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry dropped by 47.9%, followed by the personal care sector, which includes barber shops and beauty salons — another top industry that brings people together. That sector, which had lost 33.4% of all jobs, has recovered 93,100 jobs, a 23.6% increase.

California’s leisure and hospitality industry lost the most jobs from the pandemic, but is now gaining jobs faster than other sectors. (California Employment Development Department)
California’s leisure and hospitality industry lost the most jobs from the pandemic, but is now gaining jobs faster than other sectors. (California Employment Development Department)

Ranking third and fourth in regaining jobs is the construction industry and the trade, transportation and utilities sector, at 18.9% and 13.7%, respectively, according to the EDD.

Notably, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector recovered more than 82.2% of its job losses as of July 2021.

“Its transportation, warehousing and utilities subsector had more than recovered its recessionary job losses, reflecting strength in California’s international trade and logistics industry, and a steep rise in online consumer spending during the pandemic,” the EDD stated in the report.

There has been modest jobs recovery in the following sectors: educational and health services (8.3%); professional and business services (8.2%); manufacturing (3.9%), information services (6.7%); and financial activities (0.9%).

On the other end of the spectrum are two industries that have continued to lose jobs even as other sectors have recovered: government (down 2.8%) and the mining and logging sector (down 7.4%), according to the EDD.

As stated in the agency’s report:

“The losses in mining and logging, which includes establishments involved in oil extraction and production, in large part reflected turbulence in global oil markets since the beginning of the pandemic. Government’s job losses in part reflected the effects of school and university campus closures during the pandemic.”

Looking at a snapshot of the North Bay from May through September — the most recent information available — there has been an uptick in leisure and hospitality jobs in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties. Marin County had more available jobs in the sector until September, when there was a drop in opportunities, according to the Business Journal’s monthly reporting of the EDD’s findings.

The construction industry — another sector that has shown significant recovery statewide this year — largely tracks in the North Bay, as well. Sonoma County between May and September added jobs, as did Marin and Solano counties, with the exception of June and May, respectively. Napa County added construction jobs only in July.

A regional look at the sectors that statewide continue to lose jobs — the mining and logging industry, as well as government — doesn’t fully align with the four North Bay area counties tracked in this report.

In Sonoma and Napa counties, there were no standout industries that consistently lost jobs between May and September. Marin County in May, June and July reported fewer jobs in the educational and health services sector. During those same three months, Solano County had a drop in available opportunities in the professional and business services sector.

Sonoma State University economist Robert Eyler said there are a number of factors that paint a broader picture of jobs recovery in the North Bay.

“As with other recessions, there have been jobs lost in the regional economy, but the losses across most industry sectors continuing after 18 months is exacerbating some of the supply-side issues, creating regional inflation, and a reflection on how difficult it may be to rehire in the coming months,” Eyler said. “Migration of workers within and beyond the North Bay may also be a factor in getting jobs back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. She previously worked for a Gannett daily newspaper in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business journal. Cheryl has freelanced for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge. Reach her at or 707-521-4259.

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