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San Diegans personal income grew during pandemic

 December 24, 2021 at 3:01 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

A bit of good news for the holidays about a boost in income.

Speaker 2: (00:05)

A lot of people lost money, but they really, really benefited from that federal unemployment and a couple of stimulus checks. They got

Speaker 1: (00:12)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition. A performing art space gives new opportunities for Southwestern college students.

Speaker 3: (00:30)

Some are coming in with Folklorico training. Some are coming in with Polynesian training, belly dance, Latin, and you're gonna have those same people in a ballet class or a top class or a musical theater

Speaker 1: (00:42)

Class and some unconventional songs for the holidays. That's ahead on midday edition.

Speaker 1: (01:01)

If we 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 glimer 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 increase and who really benefited from it? San Diego union Tribune business reporter Philip Moar is here to explain and welcome Philip.

Speaker 2: (01:50)

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me

Speaker 1: (01:52)

Let's 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? Okay. So

Speaker 2: (02:02)

San ego 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

Speaker 1: (02:44)

And the biggest personal income came from an unlikely place.

Speaker 2: (02:48)

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 work 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: (03:31)

How much did that increase overall per capita income in San Diego?

Speaker 2: (03:35)

Okay. So what that looks like is about 66 and $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, dividend ends 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 before,

Speaker 1: (04:23)

Did the income boost do anything to affect the nation's poverty level?

Speaker 2: (04:27)

Yes, actually. So the poverty level is tracked by the us census and it was actually the lowest. It had been in 2020 since record started in 2009. So if you kind look at a percentage basis, it 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, right?

Speaker 1: (04:55)

Besides stimulus checks, what other reasons were there for the income boost?

Speaker 2: (05:00)

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 people 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

Speaker 1: (05:39)

Got, but the statistics all also find actual losers in this income. Boom. And I, I believe they tended to be small business owners.

Speaker 2: (05:48)

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 to slow 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.

Speaker 1: (06:15)

So 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. Well, the

Speaker 2: (06:28)

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 gains 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 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. Well,

Speaker 1: (07:21)

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: (07:30)

Yes, you too. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1: (07:39)

The new fall semester is bringing new opportunities for students on the Chula Vista campus of Southwestern college, a modern 66 million performing arts center is now open K PBS education reporter mg Perez tells us more about its impact on the south bay and the next generation of artists.

Speaker 3: (08:01)

There we go. There we go. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 4: (08:05)

Sarah Marie White makes every movement with meaning. She's a dancer learning how to express her artistic talent and develop tenacity.

Speaker 5: (08:13)

It's a huge adrenaline rush. You're like me and you just like, you really crave that like attention and you like you feed off the audience. It's like, it's an unreal feeling. If I'm being honest, it's

Speaker 4: (08:22)

Amazing. Sarah is one of the first students to take classes at the new 41,000 square foot performing arts center on the campus of Southwestern college. The brand new complex is state of the art veteran dance professor. Mary Jo Horvath is determined to use her modern classroom studio to train and cultivate the distinct and diverse talent coming from the south bay community.

Speaker 3: (08:45)

Some are coming in with Folklorico training. Some are coming in with Polynesian training, belly dance, Latin, and you're gonna have those same people in a ballet class or a top class or a musical theater class.

Speaker 6: (08:58)

This is the large auditorium, which will primarily be used for music concerts, but it will also be used for dance concerts. And also occasionally for theater performances.

Speaker 4: (09:08)

Mike Buckley is the Southwestern theater arts technical director. He says the performing arts center is not Joe us for learning it's for entertaining too. The school will Mount its student productions in the complex scheduled alongside events produced by professional arts organizations and community groups. Negotiations are underway with the San Diego opera And the San Diego symphony to lease the space in the future. The complex cost 66 million to design and build all of it was paid with bond money approved by local voters in November, 2016. And we

Speaker 6: (09:53)

Really thanked the voters of Chula Vista whose saw the vision for what could happen at Southwestern college. If they just injected some funds here,

Speaker 4: (10:02)

The corner of the campus where the performing arts center sits was an empty lot for 50 years. Generations of children from the south bay would come at Christmas time to pick a tree with their family or enjoy the pumpkin patch at Halloween. Now, now the corner offers much more than just fun, but opportunity like never before freshman Taylor Wiggins wrote a monologue for professor R Yers acting one class. She wants to be an actress or playwright someday.

Speaker 7: (10:29)

I love you. And I'm trying to make this work, but you make it so difficult. You don't want to listen to a word. I say, you

Speaker 4: (10:38)

Shut me out. Taylor says, she's grateful for her education and the new and improved resources Southwestern has to offer her and other students of color. 90% of the student population comes from historically minority and marginalized communities. Almost 70% of them are Hispanic. Edwin Anthony Rodriguez is one of them. He wants to be a choreographer and maybe someday start his own dance studio. This is where the dream begins for him. I have a lot of

Speaker 8: (11:07)

Mexican background and I really appreciate it. I love to hone my heritage. That's why I'm also a Latin dancer. So I can really

Speaker 4: (11:13)

Get in touch with my roots. Professor Horvath has spent 31 years on in the Southwestern faculty teaching and creating a community of next generation dancers. She provides the education and encouragement that often takes her students much farther than a stage.

Speaker 3: (11:29)

I think dance kind of gives them, uh, a new outlook on life. Uh, they start to kind of come out of their she a little bit as they gain, uh, tech unique and uh, as they perfect their craft

Speaker 4: (11:42)

Just a few weeks into the fall semester, a community multi-million dollar investment is already yielding a profit of potential mg Perez, KPBS news.

Speaker 1: (12:03)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is the usual time for our weekend preview of arts events around town, but instead of listing events, this holiday weekend, KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans has handpicked some unconventional holiday music from San Diego bands, perfect music to get us through yet. Another unconventional holiday season. Julia joins me now to play us some of the songs and welcome

Speaker 9: (12:31)

Julia. Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (12:35)

So first up is a Seren folk song, rose winter day, featuring Dawn Michelly on vocals. Let's have a listen.

Speaker 10: (12:44)

It's a rose winter day and sign, fade away. Wonder of your songs.

Speaker 9: (12:57)

So this song was part of local songwriter and musician, Alfred Howard's huge undertaking of writing a hundred songs in a year. He started that in the summer of 2020 and finished it up this last summer. And this song rose winter day is lovely win tree song and it features Cardinal moon singer Don ley on vocals. And I really love how this packs the sort of longing and intimacy of a, of a Christmas or a holiday night, along with the magic of just a really beautiful winter day. And there's no hint of jingle bells or sand, anything like that. And there's also nothing really sad here. It's just quiet and unassuming like a looming threat of loneliness. That's all together unfounded. And I love the opening line. It's a rose winter day and the sun, it fades away. And I wonder the aim of your thoughts

Speaker 10: (13:55)

Are souls can collide. You stay

Speaker 1: (14:00)

With me. That's rose winter day by Alfred Howard and Don ly. Now for some hip hop from 18 scales, tell us about stay warm rules and exceptions.

Speaker 11: (14:15)


Speaker 9: (14:18)

So this is from 18 scales album. Sometimes it rains, which came out in 2015 and it's definitely a look at our unique regional experience in winter and kind of how mind blowing it is when it actually does rain or get cold here. And one of the tracks old traffic gonna suck for example, but this song is stay warm. It's the album's closer. It's actually titled as an Ude and it's structured in, in two distinct parts, separated by a kind of intermission made of rain noise. The first part of the song has this total urgency. It kind of plays on the feeling of, of being overwhelmed by adverse weather or adversity in general. And the second act feels more melodic and kind of more at peace as well. This entire album is a pretty safe bet for a rainy day or maybe even just for when you're feeling moody.

Speaker 12: (15:18)


Speaker 1: (15:18)

Sounds that's stay warm rules and exceptions by 18 scales. Now this is a fun one. Let's listen to cramps by coral bells.

Speaker 12: (15:31)


Speaker 13: (15:32)

I know a man named Craus and he lurks on Christmas Eve. His eyes are made of

Speaker 9: (15:39)

Shadows. This song Craus was actually just remastered and rereleased by coral dolls this winter, and it's their beloved and subversive Christmas tune about equally beloved Christmas monster. The, and it's weirdly catchy. It's this riotous and delightfully evil song. And it's definitely a lot of fun. I love that there is Christmas music that's outside of the box without being sad or even anti the season that that's not to say that the grins out there won't also love this one.

Speaker 1: (16:24)

That's cramp is by coral bells. Finally, we have a song written in 2020 to capture the feeling of celebrating the holidays away from your loved ones, which is unfortunately still relevant this year. Tell us about echo, baby and Christmas dinner

Speaker 12: (16:42)

Made it like you, but it'll never be as good.

Speaker 9: (16:57)

So echo baby is a project of local musician, Juliana, Zach and Josh flowers, who is based in the UK. So this is already a long distance band. There are no stranger to spending time apart. And this song Christmas dinner, which came out last holiday season is definitely an Anthem for spending the holidays apart. There's a total sweetness here that kind of wins out over any, any melancholy of being apart. It even wins out over the relentlessness of it, whether it's run of Themi distance, keeping you apart, or whether it's this being our second pandemic holiday season. And I especially love the part about making their favorite dish and setting it on the table, knowing that it won't be as good as if you were together

Speaker 12: (17:51)

Season an hour. So today

Speaker 1: (18:02)

That's echo baby with Christmas dinner and you can find a playlist of these and even more unconventional holiday music from locals on our website, including satanic puppeteer orchestra, Rebecca Jade, the elephants in the room, little hurricane Tori rose, Ellis Bryant and the widows. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer, Julia Dixon Evans, Julia, have a wonderful hall. And thank you. Thank you,

Speaker 12: (18:30)

Maureen. You too.

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Good news from the pandemic is far and few in between, but the personal wealth of San Diegans grew in 2020, according to a recent report. Plus, from the archive, a $66 million performing arts center at Southwestern College will have an impact on the South Bay as well as the next generation of artists. And, some unconventional holiday music from San Diego bands — perfect music to get us through yet another unconventional holiday season.