Oakland skyline, May 2023.
The Bay Area powered to robust job gains in April, an upswing that transcended a fourth consecutive month of net employment losses in the beleaguered tech sector.
The gain of 11,200 jobs overall in the nine-county region in April provided an especially welcome counterpoint to the unsettling loss of 4,400 jobs in the region during March, according to a report released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. California as a whole also made strong gains.
“These are cheery numbers, and they confirm that we’re generally healthy,” said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a San Jose-based think tank. “Sure, we went through a rash of layoffs, but our positive growth over that same period should be read as a clear signal about our underlying strength.”
The tech industry, long a regional harbinger of overall employment health, is clearly still in the doldrums.
Tech companies shed a net total of 1,600 jobs during April, according to information that Beacon Economics derived from the official EDD monthly report.
So far in 2023, the tech industry has cut a net total of 16,500 jobs in the Bay Area, the Beacon calculations revealed. Tech companies cut Bay Area jobs in each of the first four months of this year.
The April gains in the Bay Area were led primarily by an increase of 6,400 jobs in the East Bay, along with a gain of 300 jobs in the Santa Clara County region and 1,600 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo metro area. All of the numbers were adjusted for seasonal volatility.
“Bay Area job growth has been uneven in recent months, but job creation appears to have rebounded solidly in April,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist with Bank of the West.
California added 67,000 jobs in April, the state Employment Development Department reported. The Golden State has now added jobs over a stretch of four consecutive months. California’s last employment setback was a loss of 20,200 jobs in December 2022.
Despite the job gains last month in California, the statewide unemployment rate worsened to 4.5% in April, up from 4.4% in March. The job totals and the unemployment rates are derived from two different government surveys and can at times move in contrasting directions.
“California accounted for roughly one-quarter of the jobs added in the nation during April,” said Taner Osman, research manager with Beacon Economics. “The state’s economy has had a strong start to the year, adding jobs at a quicker rate than the nation as a whole.”
Santa Clara County, with its upswing in April, has now gained jobs for 27 consecutive months. The last time the South Bay lost jobs was in January 2021. However, the increase of 300 positions was the smallest monthly gain during that stretch of more than two years.
The East Bay’s April employment upswing more than offset a loss of 4,900 jobs in March for the Alameda County-Contra Costa County metro region.
The San Francisco-San Mateo County area had suffered losses of 1,000 jobs in February and another 500 in March until achieving the April job gains.
The faltering performance of the tech sector has meant other industries had to come to the forefront.
“The April job gains for the Bay Area were surprising to us, especially given the job loss for March and the continued job-reduction announcements at some of the region’s largest tech companies,” said Jeff Bellisario, executive director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “Other sectors continue to add jobs.”
Here are some non-tech industries that performed well in the Bay Area during April, according to the seasonally adjusted calculations produced by Beacon. All the numbers are Bay Area-wide:
- Health care organizations added 6,300 positions
- Hotels, restaurants and drinking establishments increased employment by 2,200
- Administrative support, which consists primarily of clerical and office staffers, added 1,400 jobs
- Retailers added 1,300 jobs
- Construction increased employment by 1,100 positions
Yet several of these industries — notably retail, construction and administrative support — while important, also depend in part on the strength of core sectors such as tech and manufacturing for their prospects.
If tech or manufacturing workers are losing their jobs, these employees tend to spend less money in stores, restaurants and hotels. If tech companies reduce their appetite for office space and facilities, construction work might wane as well.
Despite the April upswing for hiring, the Bay Area could be in for rougher times as 2023 progresses, some economists warn.
“Tech, finance, small businesses and other employers may make selective layoffs and slow their hiring as they prepare for tougher economic and financial times,” Anderson said.
Still, it appears that the Bay Area economy has managed to withstand some of the upheaval unleashed by the work-from-home trends that emerged in the wake of the coronavirus-linked business shutdowns, according to Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with law firm Duane Morris and a former director of the state EDD.
“Remote work has fundamentally changed the nature of work here in the Bay Area,” Bernick said. “But its impact on the overall job numbers so far has been limited.”