Unemployment fell to 5.7 percent in Sonoma County in December, down from a revised 6.0 percent in November 2013 as the jobless rate continued to decline to levels not seen since the summer of 2008, the state reported Friday.
The final numbers of 2013 from the Employment Development Department show the local economy added 4,700 jobs during a year that included the opening of the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, East Washington Place shopping center in Petaluma and The Barlow in Sebastopol.
The leisure and hospitality sector accounted for 800 new jobs over the past year, according to the report. Local special districts and Indian tribes, which includes the Graton Rancheria tribe that owns the casino, added 2,000 jobs.
"This is what recovery looks like," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.
The number of jobs in manufacturing and construction was about the same as a year ago while educational and health services added 500 jobs.
The economy lost 1,000 jobs between November and December, although that could be due to seasonal agricultural and retail jobs ending, according to Linda Wong, North Bay labor market consultant for the EDD.
"Contractions typically happen at this time of year," she said. "It's seasonal. Overall, Sonoma County is doing fairly well relative to other North Bay regions."
The unemployment rate dropped slightly over the previous month in Napa County from 6 percent to 5.9 percent. Mendocino County's unemployment rate remained flat at 7.4 percent. Lake County continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the region at 12.1 percent, down a bit from 12.2 percent.
Statewide, unemployment dropped to 8.3 percent in December, down from 9.8 percent a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December.
The EDD reported that California added 13,600 non-farm payroll jobs during the month, bringing total job gains in the state to 922,500 since February 2010, when the recovery from the recession began.
Despite adding 235,700 jobs in 2013, higher-wage sectors such as manufacturing and construction posted declines in December. Manufacturing saw the biggest drop, with 6,000 job losses statewide.
Sonoma County ended the year with 183,000 jobs. A year ago, there were 178,300 jobs in the county.
The jobless rate had fallen this winter in tandem with a contraction in the county's labor force and a reduction in the number of unemployed job seekers, according to EDD data. There were 14,600 unemployed workers in Sonoma County in December, down from 15,600 in November and 20,100 a year ago.
"In general, we're seeing that some people left the labor force while some got jobs," said Robert Eyler, director of Sonoma State University's Center for Regional Economic Analysis. "December is a strange month in the job market because of seasonal retail hiring."
Eyler said that job gains over the past year is a sign of a strengthening economy, but cautioned that the pace of job growth could slow as the economy inches back from recession.
"The good news is that we've gained 5,000 jobs over the last year," he said. "We may not see job growth as quick as in the past as the economy returns to its natural stage of maturity."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.