Wires

San Francisco under lockdown: 3.5 mln jobs and an $877 billion economy

Ann Saphir and Jane Lanhee Lee

SAN FRANCISCO, March 16 (Reuters) - The San Francisco Bay Area's economy enters a three-week lockdown at midnight in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with six regional counties directing residents to keep to their homes as much as possible.

As of Monday morning, Bay Area counties were reporting 273 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Six people have died of the respiratory illness in California.

Here are a few facts about the Bay Area's economy, and a graphic is here: https://tmsnrt.rs/2U4W17e

POWERHOUSE

The six counties under the lockdown order accounted for $877 billion of economic output in 2018. That's about 30% of California's economy, the biggest in the United States. That makes the collective economy of the six counties bigger than Sweden, and nearly the half the size of all of Italy, whose residents went under a similar lockdown a week ago.

PEOPLE, JOBS

The area has a population of about 6.7 million people, and employs 3.5 million, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. It is unclear how many of those will be considered essential employees, but it is safe to say that the large majority will be required to stay home.

Some public sector jobs, including police and firefighters, as well as healthcare, utilities and sanitation workers, will be allowed to carry on as usual. So will grocery stores and food delivery, including take-out.

THERE ARE SOME BIG COMPANIES HERE

Technology looms large: Apple, Google Inc.-parent Alphabet, Facebook and Intel are the Bay Area's biggest companies by market capitalization. They were among the first to ask employees to work from home.

Less well known: the region has the largest cluster of biotech companies in the country. Healthcare and professional services employ large numbers of people, and tourism is also a key business, says Sean Randolph, senior director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

"I just do worry a lot now about what the impacts over the longer term are going to be and all the people out there who are in fact economically vulnerable," he said in a phone interview from his office, where he was collecting physical documents that he may need once he begins working from home on Tuesday.

LAYOFFS ARE STARTING

Ginger Rowe, founder and owner of a casual clothing shop in Los Gatos in the South Bay, told Reuters she is closing shop and laying off her three employees as of Tuesday.

"At least they can claim unemployment insurance because that's what they and we pay for. And because, with not having any revenue or sales or anything, I won't be able to continue paying them .... I can have my employees hopefully reinstated after this craziness.

SOME HELP

After the U.S Department of Labor changed its rules last week to allow workers to apply for unemployment benefits even if they are only expected to be temporarily unemployed, California Governor Gavin Newsom opened applications to people whose hours are reduced or jobs eliminated due to the virus. Some cities, including San Francisco, have banned evictions of residents who do not pay rent because of virus-related hardship.

HOMELESSNESS

The Bay Area has 28,000 people who do not have permanent places to live, the third-largest homeless population in the country behind New York City and Los Angeles, according to a report last April from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. The homeless are exempt from the order to remain at home, although cities say they are making efforts to shelter them.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Leslie Adler)