San Francisco saw sharp declines across local businesses in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy continues to struggle, according to data released Tuesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Cafe La Tazita on Post Street is closed due to coronavirus shelter in place edict in San Francisco on Sunday, March 29, 2020. The cityâ€™s economy plunged from April to June, with taxable sales dropping by 50% from the prior year.
Between April and June, taxable sales, or money spent by consumers, plunged 50% to $2.6 billion compared to a year ago, according to the cityâ€™s Budget and Legislative Analystâ€™s Office. More than a third of the reduction, or $1 billion, came from the retail and food businesses, two areas that were mostly closed during that time.
Sales tax revenue dropped 43% to $30.8 million from the prior year, according to an October report, suggesting that the cityâ€™s population declined as most office workers stayed home. The city collects 1% of the 8.5% sales tax for local use.
The first March shelter-in-place health order shut down vast swaths of the economy, including non-essential retailers and non-essential offices, indoor dining, gym and beauty salons, which officials said was crucial in curbing the spread of the virus. San Francisco tightened restrictions again this month as coronavirus cases soared, shutting down outdoor dining and hair and nail salons.
Fred Brousseau, the director of policy analysis at the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, said it’s difficult to think of any period, including the Great Recession in 2008, where entire industries have had to close down all at once.
â€œIn a typical recession, business may slacken and some will close, but abrupt industry-wide closures and reductions are an extreme development,â€ Brousseau said.
San Francisco made hardly any gains in online sales and in-store sales tanked, which is unusual compared to other cities in California, said Ted Egan, the cityâ€™s chief economist, at Tuesdayâ€™s meeting.
Egan said San Franciscoâ€™s small businesses suffered with the dearth of office workers, absent tourists and potentially residents moving out of the city for more affordable areas.
It is still unclear how many small businesses have permanently closed. The Tuesday report said 7% of retail business in the San Francisco metro area, which includes San Mateo County, were temporarily closed during the week of December 7 to 13.
An estimated 56% of small businesses with storefronts in the city were behind on rent, another indication of economic turmoil. Hotel businesses were behind by an estimated 18%, but office tenants were behind by only 0.3%, suggesting that sector is faring better than any other. Major publicly traded office landlords have also said during earnings calls that they were collecting upwards of 90% of office tenantsâ€™ rents, but a lower portion of retail rents.
In the San Francisco metro area, leisure and hospitality, including restaurants, accounted for 43.6% of lost jobs from November 2019 to 2020. Retail, part of the trade, transportation and utilities industries, accounted for 13.7% of unemployment over the same time period.
Egan said the pandemic has brought about a K-shaped recession in the city, where high wage earners likely to be working from home are doing fine while the low-wage workers severely feel the economic pain.
â€œWhat we really have in San Francisco are two economies,â€ he said.