For the second straight month, the Bay Area lost thousands of jobs in September, making it the worst month for employment locally since February 2010.
The setback for the local economy comes as the crucial holiday shopping and hiring season draws near, and contrasts with a strong hiring picture statewide.
The Bay Area’s job losses stem from two distinct phenomena: Some employers are slashing positions, and others are unable to hire. Some economists attribute this second problem to structural barriers posed by skyrocketing housing costs. The lack of affordable places for workers to live appears to have hobbled the region’s ability to fill jobs as briskly as in prior years.
“Housing is the chain on the dog that is chasing a squirrel,” said Christopher Thornberg, principal economist and founding partner with Beacon Economics. “Once that chain runs out, it yanks the dog back.”
Overall, the Bay Area lost 4,700 jobs last month. While some smaller metropolitan areas in the region had job gains, employers shed 1,300 jobs in Santa Clara County, 1,700 in the San Francisco-San Mateo region and 2,600 in the East Bay, seasonally adjusted figures from the state’s Employment Development Department show.
The September losses, combined with 2,400 job losses reported by the EDD for August, paint an unsettling picture and lend credence to the assessment from a growing number of experts that the Bay Area’s job growth has begun to slow dramatically.
“The slowdown is real,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “There were times this year we thought that job losses here and there were just temporary. But the slowdown is a fact. It’s happening.”
The lack of housing also makes it tough for employees to live near their workplaces, forcing many into lengthy commutes on roads choked with traffic. Some prospective employees decide they’d rather not bother.
“The economy in the Bay Area has pushed up against the physical limits of a lack of housing and a lack of places for workers to live,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Stockton-based Center for Business and Policy Research at University of the Pacific.
Among smaller Bay Area urban centers, Marin County lost 200 jobs in September, while Solano County added 600 jobs, Napa County gained 300 positions and Sonoma County added 200, the EDD reported.
The EDD on Friday revised downward the number of Bay Area job losses that occurred in August from 4,700 to 2,400, but said the losses accelerated in September.
The jobs picture for the technology sector also looked weak last month. Tech companies shed 100 jobs in Santa Clara County and 900 in the San Francisco-San Mateo area, although the East Bay eked out a gain of 500 tech jobs, a Beacon Economics analysis of EDD statistics showed.