For San Diego’s workforce, the future looks like more of the same: high unemployment, stagnant wages and increasing cost of living. Needless to say, San Diego’s recovery relative to other metros, thus far has been lukewarm. Yet bathing this gloomy outlook is the sunny optimism reflected in consumer confidence, rising demand and increasing employment opportunities. With every economic cycle, jobs come and go, but the fundamental question still lingers: Why do San Diegan workers continue to struggle to make ends meet?
The answer lies in wages, in particular the affordability gap between what a job pays and what it costs to live in San Diego. In terms of average annual wage per job, San Diego has still not recovered from the loss of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s. The figure below shows that when adjusted for inflation, the average wage per job in San Diego in 2010 still pays less than the average wage per job in 1972. During the past decade, real wages in San Diego have been slightly trailing real wages statewide. It should be noted that employment estimates used to compute the average wage by the Bureau of Economic Analysis are a job, not person, count. Hence, people holding multiple part-time jobs are double-counted, and this depresses employment quality indicators.