CARLSBAD — Economic, city and business people gathered here Wednesday to discuss the current economic outlook for North County.
Josh Williams, co-founder of BW Research, gave a presentation to about 400 people at the third annual North County Economic Summit hosted by the North County Economic Development Corporation at the Omni La Costa Resort.
Williams said the state of the region is healthy even though nationally, the economy has taken a down turn. Regardless, he said reaction to dips in the stock market have had a minimal impact in North County.
Attendees were given a breakdown of many aspects of the diverse North County economy, which includes Poway, Ramona and Julian west to Del Mar and north up to Oceanside, Fallbrook and east to Borrego Springs.
“We are the fifth most populated county in the United States,” San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts said. “Affordable housing is one of the biggest needs we have.”
Going off of Roberts’ opening remarks, Williams said housing affordability is steadily becoming an issue as 48 percent of renters are spending 35 percent of their income on rent. Compared to Santa Clara County near San Francisco, where those renters spend an average of 40 percent.
In addition, renters spend 48.4 percent of their income, while homeowners average 36.3 percent.
The average office rent, meanwhile, has also steadily risen and is up to about $2.85 per square foot in 2015, which is 15 cents higher than in 2014 and nearly 30 cents more than in 2010.
“So, we are 8 percent higher than one of the most expensive markets in the country,” Williams said of renters. “That gives you a sense of the challenge and the real need for (the) workforce.”
However, Williams said North County has made massive strides in unemployment in the past three years. From January 2013 until last month, the rate has dropped to 4.4 percent from 7.8 percent.
The region’s employment growth jumped 2.5 percent and created 11,000 jobs in the past 36 months.
“It’s a time of transition,” Williams said. “We’ve gone from a loose labor market to a tight one … it creates challenges for businesses that are growing and finding the talent.”
Breaking down North County’s economy, the region holds 37.2 percent of San Diego County’s population, 31.4 of the jobs, 35 percent of small business (one to nine employees), 34.9 of medium business (10 to 49 employees) and 33.8 of large business (50 or more).
The region’s largest industry is connected tourism and agriculture, although it has the lowest average wage per worker at $25,200. The biotechnology and biomedical field has the highest average wage at $113,300, while information and communications technologies is second at $112,000 with 11,100 and 15,300 workers, respectively.
Healthcare makes up for 36,800 employees with an average wage of $59,900, followed by building and design at 14,600 and $75,700; sports and active lifestyle at 11,200 and $41,400; and clean technology at $84,800 and 6,000.
All but information and communication saw growth from 2010-15 as clean technology lead the way with a 24 percent increase.
“Most of them are growing … and represent one third of our jobs,” Williams said. “They are higher paying and tend to be occupations less vulnerable to automation. Jobs that tend to be creative, design oriented that are really problem solving tend to be less likely to be vulnerable, while things that are more repetitive … are things more likely to be automated.”