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Innovation Industry’ Fueling San Diego County’s Economy

Streak of Solid Hiring In U.S. Bolsters Confidence About 2015


Tony Cherin
, finance professor emeritus, San Diego State University

Erik Bruvold, president, National University System Institute for Policy Research


San Diego County's "innovation industry" — businesses linked to the health sciences, biotech and telecommunications — is keeping the region's unemployment rate low, a local public policy analyst said Tuesday.

The county's most recent unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in November — down from 7 percent from the same month last year. It's also lower than California's unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, according to the state Employment Development Department.

"What we've seen is this expansion in San Diego's innovation economy, said Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

"It's the health sciences, the telecommunications. It's been fueling growth in 2013 and 2014, and keeping us a little bit better than the state and a little bit better than the nation," Bruvold told KPBS Midday Edition.

But industries such as construction and hospitality are struggling in San Diego County, he said.

"We still have a challenge in what we might call our opportunity economy," Bruvold said. "We have a lot of people in our community who work in the hospitality industry. And the challenge in that industry is that it's labor intensive, and it's not been an industry that's had huge gains and efficiencies in productivity that can then be passed on in wage increases to its work force."

Photo caption: A chart displaying job gains and losses in San Diego County during November 2...

Photo credit: San Diego Workforce Partnership

A chart displaying job gains and losses in San Diego County during November 2013 to November 2014.

San Diego employees saw their wages grow slowly, with the average worker earning about $1,044 a week. The average weekly salary is 1.2 percent more compared to the salary of the same time period in 2013, according to U-T San Diego.

Despite the slow increase in wages, December brought nearly 3 million new jobs in the U.S.

Bruvold said it's "solid progress" but there are still many people who are working part time but want to work full time.

"We're looking at a true unemployment number of 11 percent," Bruvold said. "There's still a lot of people out there who would rather work more hours. Those are the challenges in our economy, and they remain both short-term and structural in terms of our ability to create jobs with good wages that allow for middle-class lifestyles."

More about San Diego County's economy will be discussed Friday at the 31st annual San Diego County Economic Roundtable. It's from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday at the University of San Diego. Admission is free, but registration is required.

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