The Bay Area powered to big job gains in May, a hiring surge led by the South Bay that — for now — has banished the ominous specter of a weak labor market and job losses that haunted the region earlier this year.

The nine-county region added 7,000 jobs in May, the most in a month since December 2023, when the area produced a gain of 11,200 positions, the state’s labor agency reported Friday.

A drone view of the Port of Oakland and downtown seen from Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Port of Oakland and downtown Oakland, as seen in a drone view, April 2024, (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

The Bay Area’s upswing in hiring during May occurred despite — not because of — the region’s vaunted and crucial tech industry, which chopped employment, primarily due to massive tech job cuts in the San Francisco metro area.

The South Bay muscled up to produce a gain of 3,300 jobs, nearly half of all the hiring in the Bay Area during May, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The East Bay added 2,100 jobs.

The San Francisco-San Mateo region added 1,000 positions, the EDD reported.

California added 43,700 jobs in May. California also reached a record-high number of nonfarm payroll jobs in May.

For the first time, California has topped 18 million non-farm payroll jobs. Both the California and the Bay Area numbers were adjusted for seasonal volatility.

The statewide unemployment rate was 5.2% in May, an improvement from the California unemployment rate of 5.3% in April.

The improvement marked the first time in nearly two years that the statewide jobless rate decreased. In August 2022, the statewide unemployment rate reached a record-low level of 3.8%. The jobless rate has steadily worsened since then until the improvement in May.

Here is how some key industries fared in the Bay Area during May, according to seasonally adjusted numbers that Beacon Economics derived from the EDD official report:

— Tech companies slashed employment by a net amount of 2,100 jobs, according to the Beacon Economics estimates. Tech companies cut 2,200 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo region and another 400 in the South Bay. The tech industry, however, added 600 jobs in the East Bay.

— Hotels and restaurants added 1,300 jobs in the Bay Area. Hotels and restaurants gained 800 jobs in San Francisco-San Mateo and 400 in the South Bay.

— Financial services firms added 1,700 jobs in the Bay Area, driven primarily by an increase of 1,000 in the San Francisco metro area and 600 in the East Bay. This sector includes banks and other financial firms, insurance companies, and real estate firms.

— Healthcare firms increased employment by 1,200 positions in the Bay Area in May. The South Bay added 1,000 healthcare jobs last month, the Beacon estimate showed.

It’s also become clear that the Bay Area’s post-coronavirus recovery has begun to lag to a significant extent the California rebound from the deadly bug’s economic maladies.

California’s total of 18.03 million payroll jobs in May was 1.2% higher than the jobs the state had in February 2020, the final month before government-mandated business lockdowns went into effect to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Yet over that same stretch of slightly more than four years, the Bay Area and its three major urban centers all remain below their pre-COVID job heights.

Here is what this news organization’s analysis of the EDD report shows regarding the Bay Area’s post-coronavirus employment recovery. The numbers compare the May 2024 numbers with the February 2020 level:

— The Bay Area is 1.3% below the February 2020 level, or a jobs deficit of 53,300.

— The South Bay is 0.2% beneath the pre-COVID figure, or a shortfall of 1,800 positions.

— The East Bay is 0.3% below, or a gap of 3,200 jobs.

— The San Francisco-San Mateo region is 3.7% under the pre-coronavirus total, which is a jaw-dropping deficit of 44,300 jobs.

Over the most recent 12 months that ended in May, the East Bay’s job totals have risen 0.9%, while the South Bay and the Bay Area are up 0.5%. Ominously, San Francisco-San Mateo’s job totals are down 0.5% during the year.

The Bay Area’s hefty hiring in May of a net total of 7,000 workers provided a hopeful counterpoint to the dreary trends for the region during the first four months of the year.

From January through April, the Bay Area had lost 600 jobs. But May’s upswing means the  Bay Area has gained 6,400 jobs over 2024’s first five months.