Business Climate

The City of Santa Monica has a robust and diversified local economy.  This document provides an overview of the citywide economy with additional information on the City’s leading economic sectors, top employers and top sales tax producers.

 Citywide Totals:

  • 9,807 businesses
  • 79,653 employees
  • 93,076 residents
  • 4.9% unemployment rate

Santa Monica’s Leading Economic Sectors - A Snapshot:

Creative Industries and Technology Sector (aka “Silicon Beach”)

  • 3,166 businesses, employing 29,216 people (37% of the City’s total employment) with an average quarterly payroll of $1.95 billion (63% of City’s total).
  • Santa Monica’s major tech + creative clusters: 
  1. Information (e.g., publishers, motion picture/video production, film distribution, postproduction, telecommunications, sound recording studios)
  2. Professional, Scientific + Technical Services (e.g. advertising, graphic design, computer design/programming, bio- technology R+ D) and 
  3. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sectors.
  • Examples:  Activision Blizzard, Cornerstone on Demand, Hulu, Lionsgate Entertainment, Oracle, Snap Inc. + Universal Music Group

Health Care Sector

  • 2,557 businesses, employing 9,432 people (12% of the City’s total employment) in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector with an average quarterly payroll of $142.8 million (5% of total payroll)
  • Examples:  Berkley East Healthcare Center, Cedars Sinai Medical Group, GoodRX, Kaiser Permanente SM, Kite - A Gilead Company, Providence St John’s Health Center + UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center
  • In addition to a growing biotech sector, Santa Monica is also a global wellness hub with GOOP, Headspace and FIGS Inc. corporate headquarters and health care educators Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine and Santa Monica College.

Hospitality and Tourism Sector

  • 504 businesses in the Accommodation and Food Services sector employ 9,689 people (12% of the City’s total employment) with an average quarterly payroll of $80.2 million (3% of City’s total).
  • Since 2020, Santa Monica’s vital travel industry has suffered the impacts of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic with a 76% drop in annual visitors from 8 million to 2 million visitors per year.  Tourism is starting to recover as Santa Monica welcomes back both domestic and international visitors. The top five international feeder markets are:  Australia/New Zealand, England, Canada, Mexico and Central America. 
  • The tourism industry is estimated to generate $454 million annually in revenue for the local economy.
  • National Geographic ranked Santa Monica as one of the “Top Ten Beach Cities in the World.”  And for a fun fact:  our historic Santa Monica Pier is the 2nd most Instagrammed place in CA and 8th most in the world. 
  • Santa Monica has 15 restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide including Michelin stars Melisse, Pasjoli and Rustic Canyon.  New arrivals to the City’s hotel sector include: Santa Monica Proper Hotel, the Hampton Inn + Suites SM and the Courtyard by Marriot SM, along with the newly renovated Oceana Hotel, Surestay Hotel by Best Western and the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites.  In the pipeline:  Fairmont Miramar Hotel redevelopment and Frank Gehry-designed Ocean Avenue hotel project.

Retail Sector

  • 588 businesses, employing 6,095 people in the retail sector (9% of Santa Monica’s total employment) with an average quarterly payroll of $94.7 million (3% of City’s total).
  • Santa Monica’s businesses generated $2.5 billion in taxable sales in 2020 (a 30% decrease from prior year due to COVID impacts); of which 28% was generated in Downtown SM.  Santa Monica’s most recent sales tax data (Q321) reported $10.3 million in sales tax receipts equating to a 23.8% increase year over year.
  •  Purchases made at Santa Monica businesses last year raised $14 million in funding for our schools and an additional $1 million for affordable housing construction and preservation (Measures GSH + Y). 
  • There are 1,400 businesses participating in the Buy Local SM campaign who hire local + actively support the community.  They employ approximately 3,900 SM residents; 47% are owned by SM residents.
  • Santa Monica embraces sustainable, green and eco-friendly businesses. The annual Sustainable Quality Awards (SQA) recognizes sustainable leaders; over 158 businesses have received this prestigious SQA Award.
  • See Top 25 Sales Tax Producers (below) for some of our noteworthy retailers.  Notable new openings include:  Target (2 locations), Trader Joe’s (3rd location in DTSM), Aviator Nation (Main St), Daniziger Photography Gallery (Bergamot), The RealReal (26th St), VanMoof e-bikes (DTSM) and VinFast EV Showroom @ SM Place.    


Top 10 Employers in City of Santa Monica (by total number of employees)

  1. City of Santa Monica (2,059)
  2. UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (1,965)
  3. Santa Monica College (1,865)
  4. Snap, Inc. (1,667)
  5. Universal Music Group (1,400)
  6. Providence St. John's Health Center (1,386)
  7. SM-Malibu Unified School District (1,358)
  8. HULU (1,320)
  9. Oracle (950)
  10. Activision Publishing Inc. (919)

Top 25 Sales Tax Producers (in alphabetical order)

  • Apple
  • Audi Leasing Bentley Leasing
  • Bourget Bros. Bldg Materials
  • Daimler Trust
  • Fairmont Miramar Hotel
  • Ferguson Enterprises
  • Honda of Santa Monica
  • Jaguar/Land Rover Santa Monica
  • JP Morgan Chase Bank
  • Lexus Santa Monica
  • Michael Smith Design
  • Ring
  • Santa Monica Audi
  • Santa Monica Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
  • Santa Monica Ford Lincoln
  • Shutters on the Beach
  • Snyder Diamond
  • Subaru Santa Monica
  • Tesla Motors
  • Toyota Lease Trust
  • Toyota Santa Monica
  • Volkswagen Santa Monica
  • Volvo Santa Monica
  • Water Grill/ Pier Burger
  • WI Simonson Mercedes