The following two metrics track the impact of COVID-19 on different industries in the San Francisco area and how they are recovering:
- Employment by industry (San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco Metropolitan Division)
- Number of establishments by industry (San Francisco County)
Employment by industry measures the number of people working in each industry in the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco Metropolitan Division, hereafter referred to as the San Francisco MD or MD. It includes people who do not live in the San Francisco MD if they work at a job based in the MD. It does not include city residents who work at jobs located outside of the MD.
For more information about these statistical areas, please refer to the data notes below.
Establishments by industry measures the number of business establishments located in San Francisco in each industry. A business can have one or more locations and different locations might be in different industries. (I.e. a headquarter of a retail business might be in professional services while their store locations would be in retail). This measure tracks each location.
Employment changers more rapidly than the opening and closing of businesses. We track unemployment monthly and number of establishments by quarter, which averages the three months in the quarter.
When tracking employment, we highlighted San Francisco’s five largest industries. When tracking establishments, we highlighted unique industries that showed the greatest change during the pandemic. Use the filters to see different industries on each chart.
These two indicators help us understand areas of expansion, contraction, or stability at an industry level. Employment tells us how many individuals may have lost their jobs in each industry and how those jobs are recovering over time. Establishments (locations) tells how many business locations may have closed or opened over time. This metric can highlight the impact of the pandemic on the health of an industry and the small business community as a result of the pandemic and whether it is recovering.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected some industries more than others. Industries that could easily shift to remote work schedules could continue operations as long as demand for their services continued. Industries that were largely “in-person” and deemed “essential” continued, but modified their operations with safety protocols.
In other industries, businesses closed or temporarily stopped providing services until it was safe to operate again.
How do we interpret these metrics?
Employment by Industry
During the pandemic, most industries experienced a decrease in employment, but the size of the decrease and the extent of recovery varied. By the end of 2022, many industries had returned to pre-pandemic levels of employment.
Four of San Francisco’s five largest industries only experienced small decreases in employment at the start of the pandemic., By December 2022, all four had exceeded their pre-pandemic employment numbers, especially Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services followed by Information Services – while Finance and Insurance and Health Care and Social Assistance showed smaller growth.
The nature of the work in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services; Information Services; and Finance and Insurance industries could easily transition employees to remote working. Because of this, these industries did not show a significant decrease in employment as a result of the pandemic.
Although it requires a great deal of in-person interactions, the Health Care and Social Assistance industry was deemed an essential industry during the pandemic because people needed health services. As a result it saw a much lower decrease in employment at the start of the pandemic than many other industries.
The Accommodation and Food Services industry includes hotels and restaurants. Prior to the pandemic, this industry was the second biggest source of employment in San Francisco. However, as travel restrictions and health orders required that people avoid gathering with others for any reason that was not essential, this industry experienced the steepest drop in employment. Employment levels in this industry started increasing in March 2021 when people could more safely leave their homes again. By the end of 2022, hotel and restaurant employment had increased, but still had not reached pre-pandemic levels.
Likewise, several industries in San Francisco have not fully recovered the number of jobs that they produced before the pandemic, most notably: Retail Trade, Management of Companies and Enterprises, with smaller declines in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, Transportation and Warehousing and Wholesale Trade.
Establishments by Industry
In most San Francisco industries, the number of establishments (physical locations) remained about the same. Trends in the number of locations are not indicators of the number of businesses operating or the amount of office or commercial space used.
Other Services, except Public Administration, had the largest drop in the number of establishments immediately after Shelter-in-Place orders took effect. Other Services includes dry-cleaning, personal care services, death care, automotive repair, household goods repair, civic and social organizations, and many other services. The services tend to be in-person and were not deemed to be essential services during the pandemic.
Accommodation and Food Services experienced a small decrease in establishments, over a long period of time. The industry began with about 4,300 establishments before the pandemic. It ended the 2021 year with about 300 fewer locations and that trend seems to be continuing. The trend in its establishments contrasts with the sharp drop in employment that industry experienced in the quarter following the pandemic shutdown, indicating that many business locations in this industry may have temporarily closed or significantly downsized at the outset of the pandemic but did not close permanently. As time has gone on however, a number of establishments in this industry have closed.
Though not as large an industry in terms of number of establishments, Retail Trade and Wholesale Trade industries showed a similar loss pattern to Accommodation and Food Services.