Downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 18, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – How well did California fare economically during the pandemic?  

A new report by Brookings, a D.C. think tank, ranked U.S. metropolitan areas on a range of metrics — economic growth; productivity; regional, racial and economic inequality — that adds up to what they call inclusive growth.

In general, large metropolitan areas in California – including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco – haven’t done so well. 

Of the 192 metro areas studied, L.A. fell from an “inclusive growth” ranking of 34 before the pandemic to 165 during the pandemic. San Francisco lost massive ground, falling from  number 4 to 109 on the list. And San Diego dropped from 54 to 139. 

On Brookings’ “Overall Racial inclusion Index,” the San Diego metro area ranked 55th out of 56 regions. San Jose came 54th and San Francisco came 46th.

Even on more traditional measures of economic well-being, which have long favored the state’s big cities, California has struggled.

  • The report: “For many years it appeared nothing could dent the economic momentum in these major hubs of technology and commerce, but the pandemic did so significantly.”

Joseph Parilla, director of applied research at Brookings, partly blamed the state’s public health policies.

  • Parilla: California “had a lot of industries that allowed people to work remotely because they were these centers of finance, business and technology. Because economic activity didn’t return, a lot of folks that were lower income or workers of color really lost jobs or couldn’t find new jobs as a result.”

That squares with a finding in a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California: During the pandemic, income among the highest earners increased, while it sank for lower earners, widening the gap between the state’s haves and have nots

That trend, the report found, is “driven by a job market that favors highly educated workers.”