San Antonio’s recovery from pandemic-related job losses may not be equally felt across different parts of town, suggests a survey from researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Researchers say the survey shows the need for a specialized approach to outreach and economic recovery assistance.
“Long-term, we need to have targeted efforts where poverty is concentrated,” said Ying Huang, a UTSA assistant professor of demography who was one of the study’s seven co-authors. “We need to have place-based intervention.”
The findings were published in a policy brief stemming from a broader study of pandemic effects. The brief was published by the university’s Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research. Huang said more reports will be issued in the future from the study’s other findings.
Survey responses were drawn from more than 800 households in two zip codes – one relatively disadvantaged and the other solidly middle class.
One was 78202, an Eastside zip code covering much of Dignowity Hill and parts of Jefferson Heights. Fewer than 70% of residents have a high school diploma, and the median income is $28,130. More than 38% of residents live below the poverty line, including 58% of children.
The other zip code was 78230, an area entirely in the Northside Independent School District that includes such neighborhoods as Elm Creek, Whispering Oaks, and Hunters Creek. More than 90% of residents have a high school diploma, and the median income is more than $62,000. Only 13% of residents live below the poverty line.
Both neighborhoods saw similar job losses, with around 65% of respondents in both neighborhoods reporting pandemic-related job losses. This is higher than the statewide rate of 53%, as reported by the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey.
Broken down by race and ethnicity, job losses were more pronounced in Hispanic households, for whom almost half of respondents reported job losses. Meanwhile, only a third of non-Hispanic white respondents reported job losses. This was roughly true in both neighborhoods.
But recovery from those losses is a different story, the survey suggests. As of late March, when the survey was taken, wide disparities emerged in the job recovery reported by respondents in the two neighborhoods.
Researchers did not provide a total average, but broke the numbers down by race and ethnicity. In the relatively lower-income 78202 zip code, more than 20% of non-Hispanic white households reported that they had not regained their jobs. That is twice the roughly 10% of white households in the relatively wealthier 78230 zip code that reported continued job loss.
The disparity appears to be wider between the zip codes’ Black households. In the Northside zip code, job losses were sustained only by 7.1% of people identifying themselves as neither Hispanic nor white, which census data shows would point to the zip codes’ Black and Asian populations equally. In the Eastside zip code, where that category comprises almost entirely Black residents, a substantial 40% of respondents were still experiencing job losses.
The exception was Hispanic households, which suffered the worst job losses but also made significant recoveries — with even stronger recovery in the Eastside zip code. In the Northside zip code, 11% of Hispanic household respondents reported sustained job losses, compared to the Eastside zip code where only 4% of responding Hispanic households reported continued job loss.
Authors speculated this was due to the upsurge in job demand in industries where Hispanic people tend to be strongly represented, “such as the leisure and hospitality sectors, education and health services.”
The figures provided by the survey track with larger estimates of joblessness reported by Alamo Workforce Solutions, which found that joblessness for San Antonio peaked in April 2020 at 13.6%, before dropping to 6.6% in March 2021, when UTSA’s survey was conducted.
Since then, the local unemployment rate has fallen further to 5.4%.
The authors framed the survey’s findings as a “first glimpse” into the lopsided recovery between communities.
They wrote in the conclusion: “Because of the high rate of job loss, job recovery must be a key element in the design of upcoming labor policies. This will be especially relevant for the Black or other minority members, and particularly those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods like Jefferson Heights.”