Despite pandemic, personal income of San Diegans grew at record rates in 2020
Speaker 1: (00:00)
If we were to make a year end list of everything that was wrong with the pandemic years, it would be a very long list. In fact, it's hard to find any kind of silver lining in the ongoing grind of living with a world altering virus. But recently we have gotten a glimmer of silver lining news from of all places. The us department of Commerce's bureau of economic analysis. It found that personal income in San Diego rose to a record rate in 2020 marking the biggest annual increase for the San Diego Metro area. Since the bureau began keeping track more than 10 years ago, what caused that in crease and who really benefited from it? San Diego union Tribune business reporter Philip Moar is here to explain and welcome Philip. Yeah.
Speaker 2: (00:50)
Thank you so much for having me. Let's
Speaker 1: (00:52)
Start out with the statistics. How much did San Diego's personal income increase in 2020? And how does that compare with the rest of California and the country?
Speaker 2: (01:02)
Okay. So San Diego county residents saw their real personal income grow 6.4% in 2020. So that's up from 1.1% in 2019. And just as a side, I, I wrote this same story about a year ago and the way I was writing it was yeah, personal income went up in 2019, but it's probably not gonna happen in 2020 cuz of all this crazy stuff. So this was pretty remarkable that we saw such a huge increase. And so if you think about that, that 6.4% that we saw in San Diego county that beat the national increase of 5.3%. And it was one of the biggest in the country. So it was, it was something to really be noteworthy about our region and you know, our state and
Speaker 1: (01:44)
The biggest personal income came from an unlikely
Speaker 2: (01:47)
Place. Oh my God. Yeah. So when I looked at all the Metro areas all 380 or so of them, the one that popped up at, at the very top was El Centro in Imperial valley. You know, so that was kind of funny to me. And it kind of shows this personal income growth. It was sort of across the board, you had two things going on. The first thing was places that had sort of high paying jobs like San Diego, where had a lot of people that were, could work from home, but there was a lot of people in poor areas with less job growth, all that kind of stuff that were really benefiting from these enhanced unemployment programs, stimulus checks. And they started at such a low level that their personal income really grew in 2020 and El Centro is a perfect example.
Speaker 1: (02:31)
How much did that increase overall per capita income in San Diego?
Speaker 2: (02:35)
Okay. So what that looks like is about $66,266 for the average San Diego. And that's up from 60,800 the year before. And the thing I love about looking at personal income is it's sort of like a catch all way of looking at how much Americans earn a year. So it adjusts for inflation, but it includes wages, interest dividends, stuff from stocks, government benefits. So it does take a while to get this data. It's, it's a year behind sometimes the story isn't that exciting, cuz you're looking in the past, but it takes a while to calculate all these things, especially from taxes and all that kind of stuff to figure out where people's at, but it really gives us a good idea of what was actually going on in 2020, despite a lot of the horror stories, like you mentioned
Speaker 1: (03:22)
Before, did the income boost do anything to affect the nation's poverty level?
Speaker 2: (03:27)
Yes, actually. So the poverty level is tracked by the us census and it was actually the lowest. It, it had been in 2020 since record started in 2009. So if you kind look at on a percentage basis, including government assistance, the poverty rate was considered 9.1% in 2020, that was down from 11.8% in 2019. So it did have this across the board impact. And a lot of that is tied to these stimulus checks,
Speaker 1: (03:54)
Right? Besides stimulus checks, what other reasons were there for the income booth?
Speaker 2: (04:00)
Okay. So one thing that happened during the pandemic that continued all the way until September, there was a few stops here and there, but there was extra enhanced unemployment benefits per week, which for most of the pandemic was around $600 extra a week. So that was a big deal on top of how much you might have been earning for unemployment during this time, we know a lot of lost their jobs in April, 2020. Our unemployment was actually 15.9% in San Diego county. So there was a lot of people out of work. So one of the cool things about, you know, looking at all of this stuff with the poverty level is yeah, a lot of people lost money, but they really, really benefited from that federal unemployment and a couple of stimulus checks they got, but the
Speaker 1: (04:40)
Statistics also find actual losers in this income. Boom. And I, I believe they tended to be small business owners.
Speaker 2: (04:48)
Just about the worst thing you could be as a small business owner during this time in general, a lot of restaurants had to shut down and all that kind of stuff in regards to a lot of the closures that were, you know, done low, the spread of COVID 19, there was a good reason for it. You didn't want a lot of people going into restaurants and kind of closing those type of businesses. So if you were a small business owner, yeah, you probably didn't benefit as much as other Americans. So
Speaker 1: (05:15)
As you pointed out, these government statistics are for the year 2020. What challenges did we face this year? And perhaps next year that may slow down this income. Boom.
Speaker 2: (05:27)
Well, the biggest thing in 2021, the numbers I'm sure will show is these personal income numbers are adjusted for inflation. So we saw inflation go quite high this year throughout the United States. So I'm assuming whatever the personal income gain that were gathered during 2021 will be muted compared to this year when you factor in inflation. However, there's a few things to keep in mind that affected 2020 that continued on in 2021. One of the biggest ones was enhanced. Unemployment lasted to about September. One of the other things was student loan, interest payments were paused. So that gave a lot of people time to build up their savings or maybe get ahead on those payments that weren't gathering interest. And we still got a stimulus check one time in 2021 under the Biden administration. So a lot of these things that pumped money into the economy in 2020 continued in 2021.
Speaker 1: (06:20)
Well, I thank you for going through all those numbers for us. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune business reporter Philip Moar Phil have a great holiday.
Speaker 2: (06:29)
Yes, you too. Thank you so much.
It’s hard to find any kind of silver lining in the ongoing grind of living with a world-altering virus.
Recently, however, a glimmer of economic hope has emerged from, of all places, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
It found that personal income in San Diego rose at a record rate in 2020, marking the biggest annual increase for the San Diego metro area since the Bureau began keeping track more than 10 years ago.