SAN JOSE -- Every region of the Bay Area -- East Bay, South Bay and the San Francisco area -- is years away from being able to recapture the jobs that were erased by the recession, an economist told a government gathering here Thursday.

"The Bay Area recovery will be slow in coming," Jon Haveman, a partner and co-founder of Beacon Economics, told the Association of Bay Area Governments, which was holding its fall general assembly in downtown San Jose. "The recovery will be uneven."

Among the big reasons: Every part of the Bay Area is far below its peak employment levels of 2007 and 2008, according to an analysis of seasonally adjusted figures from the state's Employment Development Department.

The Bay Area's employment levels hit their most recent peak in February 2008. Since then, the nine-county region's employment base has shriveled by 9.3 percent.

The individual metro centers of the Bay Area are similarly bleak:

  • The East Bay's employment base is down 11.2 percent from its peak level.

  • The South Bay is down 8.3 percent.

  • The San Francisco-Marin-San Mateo region is down 8.9 percent.

  • Solano County is down 9.1 percent

  • Sonoma County's job base has declined 12 percent.

  • Napa County has fallen 9.7 percent.

  • San Joaquin County's employment base has declined 10.5 percent from its peak level.


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    For that reason, a recovery to the prior peak levels -- if no fresh recession surfaces in the meantime -- remains several years away, according to estimates supplied to the Association of Bay Area Governments on Thursday by Haveman.

    The Bay Area job market will not rebound until the fourth quarter of 2015, Haveman said. The East Bay also won't bounce back before 2015. The South Bay will see strong employment growth, but not enough to produce a recovery until sometime in 2014. The San Francisco region will not be able to climb back to its peak levels until late 2015.

    "The East Bay is still experiencing job deterioration," Haveman said in an interview after his presentation. "The South Bay is doing reasonably well. There is more evidence that private sector job growth is occurring in the South Bay."

    In contrast to Silicon Valley, unexpected job weakness still haunts the San Francisco region.

    "It's a surprise that San Francisco employment continues to decline," Haveman said. "Business investment had started to pick up. But now, it's slowed down."

    Another key element of the Bay Area economy also will not resume its previous level of strength anytime soon. Taxable sales are not expected to return to the pre-recession peaks until the first quarter of 2015, he estimated.

    Still, some sectors of the Bay Area already appear robust. The region's innovation industries look to be in good shape.

    An estimated 43 percent of the nation's venture capital financing winds up invested in companies based in the Bay Area, Haveman said. About 58 percent is invested in California.

    "The East Bay has been attracting more venture capital at rates that are very surprising and encouraging," he said.

    A lot of that venture cash is being plunked down on bets that privately held green and alternative energy companies will blossom.

    Mindful of those trends, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told the gathering that it is crucial that the Bay Area do all it can to ensure those jobs are not sent to other states or countries.

    "Jobs in the cleantech sector can spin off multiple jobs in other sectors," Reed said. "The challenge is to keep these cleantech jobs in the Bay Area."

    Despite the problems the area has faced due to the recession, the nine-county region is poised to enjoy a robust economy in the coming years, Haveman said.

    "The Bay Area does remain a very attractive region for investment," he said. "Over the long term, the Bay Area will do just fine."

    Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.