The Bay Area lost 2,500 jobs during March, but the region’s long-term employment picture remains bright because of the strong tech sector and a consistent upswing in the South Bay job market, analysts said.
The March jobs loss, disclosed in a report released Friday, was due almost entirely to a reduction of 5,600 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region. Santa Clara County added 100 jobs and the East Bay gained 3,000, according to figures released by the state Employment Development Department. The numbers were adjusted for seasonal variables.
“Technology remains strong in the San Francisco area, but there could have been some weakness in hotels because of weather-related flight cancellations from back East and the Midwest,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist with San Francisco-based Bank of the West. Construction job losses in San Francisco also appear to be a blip and should strengthen by summer, he added.
Economists pointed to the long-term trends in Santa Clara County and the Bay Area in general as evidence that the sluggish results in March don’t represent a harbinger of a weak job market ahead.
“The Bay Area overall is doing fine,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank. “The Bay Area is one of the few places in the country where the economy is strong across the board. And tech is doing well, not only in the Bay Area, but doing well, period, all across the nation.”
Santa Clara County has gained jobs during 42 of the most recent 43 months, with the only monthly loss coming last October, the EDD figures show. Over a similar period, the Bay Area overall has lost jobs only twice, in June 2011 and last month.
“In terms of job creation, Santa Clara County is on fire,” Anderson said. “And the jobs in Santa Clara County tend to be well-paying.”
The private sector posted solid gains in Santa Clara County during March, according to a Beacon Economics analysis of the EDD figures, adding 500 jobs. But that gain was offset by the loss of 400 government jobs.
Tech-related industries added 300 jobs during March in Santa Clara County, the Beacon analysis shows. Hotels and restaurants added 900 and retail gained 500. Construction was surprisingly weak, though, losing 1,100 jobs in the South Bay.
The job losses in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region were widespread. Restaurants and hotels lost 1,400 jobs, financial and real estate services lost 1,200, and the tech-oriented professional, scientific and technical services industries cut 1,000 jobs. Construction lost 700 jobs.
In the East Bay, the strongest employment sector was professional, scientific and technical services, which added 1,600 jobs.
California gained 11,800 jobs in March, extending a string of recent sturdy gains, according to the EDD. California has added jobs for 32 of the last 33 months, with the only setback being January.
The statewide jobless rate remained unchanged in March at 8.1 percent, labor officials reported. Jobless rates in the Bay Area remained largely unchanged at 6.8 percent in the East Bay, 6.3 percent in the South Bay and 5.1 percent in the San Francisco metro area.
A recent report by federal labor officials shows that Santa Clara County now has the nation’s strongest job market. Over a one-year period that ended in February, the South Bay added jobs at an annual rate of 4.4 percent, the strongest percentage gain for any large metro area in the country.
“We remain optimistic that job growth will remain strong in the Bay Area and especially in Santa Clara County,” said Jordan Levine, director of economic research with Beacon Economics. “The trend is solid. Consumers are spending, and businesses are investing.”
Still, some job seekers say the employment market remains tough, especially for workers with modest skills.
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.