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Source: SANDAG

June 17, 2020 (San Diego) -- As the San Diego region’s labor market continues to experience an historic decline, Black and Hispanic communities are most impacted, according to a new SANDAG Data Science and Analytics report, “COVID-19 Impact on the San Diego Regional Economy: Black and Hispanic Communities Hardest Hit.”

Since the stay home order began in mid-March, SANDAG has closely monitored the economic impact of the pandemic on the San Diego region. 

“The report by Chief Economist, Ray Major and his team focuses our attention on the needs of our Black and Hispanic communities,” said SANDAG Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. “As regional elected officials and leaders, it is important for us to think strategically about how to coordinate with the Black and Hispanic communities – and all communities in need – to determine which programs and policies can put in place to guide an equitable recovery as businesses begin to reopen and as people return to work or look for new jobs.” 

The new SANDAG report finds that when compared to the White population, Black and Hispanic populations are more than four times as likely to live in areas that have been impacted by COVID-19 and unemployment. More than two-thirds of the region’s Black (67%) and Hispanic (70%) populations reside in ZIP Codes with higher than average unemployment rates. Approximately half of Black (52%) and Hispanic (49%) residents live in ZIP Codes with higher than average COVID-19 cases. 

White and Asian communities have been less impacted, with 14% and 24% respectively residing in areas experiencing high rates of unemployment and COVID-19 cases.

The report found that Black and Hispanic employees are overrepresented in the high contact and essential workforces. Hispanic employees account for 32% of the overall workforce but represent 46% of those working in the food service industry, and 37% of those working in the retail sector (excluding grocery and drugstore). Black employees account for nearly 5% of the overall workforce but represent more than 7% who work in childcare and social services, 9% in trucking, warehouse, and postal service, and nearly 20% of public transit workers.

Other notable findings include: 

  • Hispanic employees make up the largest percentage of the essential workforce in building cleaning services (65%), grocery and drug stores (44%), and childcare and social services (39%). 
  • Asian employees account for about 12% of the overall workforce but represent 22% of those working in the health care sector. 
  • White employees account for 48% of the region’s workforce, but only 40% of all workers in high-contact and essential occupations.

SANDAG analysis shows the pandemic has mostly affected San Diego residents in the southern part of the county, though some East County communities including El Cajon, Dulzura, Spring Valley and the SDSU College area also have significant numbers of cases.

Hardest Hit ZIP Codes -- Unemployment and COVID-19 Cases
SANDAG analysis shows the pandemic has mostly affected San Diego residents in the southern part of the county.

This map shows the areas most affected, with both the highest unemployment rates and highest percentage of COVID-19 cases in the region.

ZIP codes most affected:

  • 91910 (Chula Vista N)
  • 91911 (Chula Vista S)
  • 91917 (Dulzura)
  • 91932 (Imperial Beach)
  • 91950 (National City)
  • 91977 (Spring Valley)
  • 91978 (Rancho San Diego)
  • 92020 (El Cajon)
  • 92021 (El Cajon)
  • 92102 (Golden Hill)
  • 92105 (City Heights)
  • 92113 (Logan Heights)
  • 92114 (Encanto)
  • 92115 (College)
  • 92139 (Paradise Hills)
  • 92154 (Nestor)
  • 92173 (San Ysidro)


Source: Applied Geographic Solutions, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California, Weekly Release June 1, 2020; County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency.
Major is available for briefings over the next month with leaders whose residents live in ZIP Codes adversely affected by COVID-19 and unemployment. The briefings can provide a deeper look into the data and analysis. 

As of June 7, the unemployment rate in the San Diego region is at 28.5% leaving 480,000 residents without work. 

“Since the stay home order was issued, the unemployment rate hit a historic high, not seen since the Great Depression, “said Major. “As the economy starts to reopen and people go back to work, we believe unemployment rates will improve in the coming weeks.”

The analysis in this report is based on unemployment estimates that continue to fluctuate during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Information for this SANDAG report was generated by data collection of ethnicities from the Census Bureau, COVID-19 cases from County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency, and unemployment from Applied Geographic Solutions, Inc. 

View full SANDAG report, COVID-19 Impact on the San Diego Regional Economy: Black and Hispanic Communities Hardest Hit. 

Data Science and Analytics at SANDAG 

As the regional leader in economic analysis, the SANDAG Data Science and Analytics team uses complex, descriptive, and predictive data to inform and support policy decisions that promote economic, social, and environmental prosperity in the San Diego region. The team works to provide critical information for policy makers and elected officials to make intelligent investments for the San Diego region.  


The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation, and research agency, providing the public forum for regional policy decisions about growth, transportation planning and construction, environmental management, housing, open space, energy, public safety, and binational topics. SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and supervisors from each of the region’s 18 cities and the county government.

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