In a record-setting performance, the Bay Area added 113,500 jobs in 2014, capped by a jump of 11,000 jobs in December that drove jobless rates down to their lowest levels in seven years, according to a report released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
The upswing in 2014 marks five straight years of Bay Area job expansion, the best stretch of employment growth since the dot-com era.
“There are no signs that the Bay Area is slowing down at all, and the South Bay and the San Francisco metro area remain particularly strong,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific. “It’s tech-driven job growth and that is continuing at a rapid pace.”
Santa Clara County led the Bay Area job growth in December with a gain of 8,800 jobs, powered primarily by the high-tech sector, which added 4,400 jobs. However, other sectors were also robust: Restaurants and hotels added 1,200 jobs, real estate gained 500, and retail added 400.
The San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region added 5,400 jobs last month, including 3,000 tech jobs, and 1,200 restaurant and hotel positions.
The East Bay, though, lost 1,300 jobs in December, primarily due to a decline of 1,800 construction jobs, and a loss of 400 retail jobs and 400 financial services jobs. The tech sector, however, was strong and added 900 jobs.
The employment gains in the Bay Area represented the third straight year in which the region added at least 100,000 jobs during the year. That’s the longest stretch of job gains at the 100,000-plus level since 1990, when the government discarded an old system of job statistics and started tracking numbers with the current system.
“The Bay Area’s job performance over this expansion has been impressive and nearly unmatched over the last 30 years,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist with San Francisco-based Bank of the West. “Looking at the number of jobs created in the Bay Area, one could be excused in thinking the Bay Area is the California economy today.”
Andrew Arthur, a Berkeley resident who is a K-12 teacher, said he also has seen more school district positions and part-time work opening up.
“The job market is substantially better than it was two years, ago; it is dramatically better and much improved,” Arthur said. “In the past, during the recession, I had to pick up some extra shifts as a bartender, or at a restaurant. It was pretty horrible before. But now at least there are jobs you can apply for.”
The boom in the Bay Area in December was in stark contrast to the tiny gain of 700 jobs in California. This means, excluding the Bay Area, the rest of the state lost more than 10,000 jobs last month.
In 2014, employment totals expanded 4 percent in Santa Clara County, 3.8 percent in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region and 2.4 percent in the East Bay. Those were all well ahead of the 2014 pace of job growth of 2.1 percent in both California and the United States.
“The Bay Area is California’s job growth leader,” said Steve Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
The statewide jobless rate did decrease, however, improving to 7 percent in December, compared with 7.2 percent in November.
Unemployment rates in the Bay Area’s three main urban centers fell, reaching levels last seen in 2007 and 2008, according to an analysis of the EDD report produced by Beacon Economics.
In December the jobless rate fell in the East Bay to 5.3 percent, down from 5.8 percent in November. In the South Bay, it was 4.8 percent in December, down from 5.3 percent the month before. In the San Francisco metro area, the jobless rate fell to 3.9 percent in December, down from 4.3 percent.
The last time jobless rates were this low was in April 2008 for the East Bay, February 2008 for the South Bay and May 2007 for the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin area, the Beacon analysis shows.
“It wasn’t a very good job market in the past, but recently, I’ve noticed a lot more places hiring these days,” said Joey Baker, a San Jose resident who works in the retail sector. “And even people I know who are out of work and are looking say there are a lot of people hiring these days. Things are picking up.”
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.