The return to campus by school teachers and related employees helped Sonoma County’s unemployment rate decline in August to 4.3 percent, the state Economic Development Department reported Friday.

The jobless rate improved from 4.6 percent in July and from 5.6 percent a year ago. Over the last year the county has added 5,100 jobs, for a total employment of 204,300 paid workers.

“Overall, I think we’re doing well,” said Janet Klaven, an EDD labor market consultant based in Santa Rosa. “We’re improving.”

In August, the county’s public school districts added 1,600 jobs. Other sectors with significant gains included retail trade, 500 new jobs; private education and health services, 400 jobs; and construction, 300 jobs.

The month saw a decrease of 400 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, as well as a drop of 300 jobs in professional and business services and 500 jobs in a category listed as “other services.”

The overall result was a net gain of 1,400 jobs.

The jobless rate in August was 6.1 percent statewide and 5.1 percent for the nation.

Following the last recession, the county’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent in January 2010. The rate has consistently been below 5 percent since February.

Over the last year, the county added 1,400 construction jobs. That sector’s workforce grew 12.8 percent to 12,300 workers, and the outlook remains upbeat, county officials said.

“We’re still facing quite a housing shortage,” said Brian Marland, research coordinator for the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. “We’ll see strong construction numbers for a while as we try to catch up.”

Other sectors that added jobs in the last year included health care and food services/drinking establishments, which each added 700 jobs. Public schools added 600 jobs and the retail sector 500.

One industry that saw annual job losses was manufacturing. The durable and non-durable goods sectors each lost 400 jobs from a year earlier.

The drop in durable goods manufacturing is partly due to a slowdown for businesses serving the oil and solar industries, as well as those with ties to China and Europe, said Dick Herman, president of 101 MFG, a Petaluma-based alliance of manufacturing executives.

The slower output was somewhat expected following “pretty good growth in manufacturing output” over the past 3½ years, he said.

Sonoma ranked sixth in August among the state’s 58 counties with the lowest jobless rates. Marin County ranked second with an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent. Napa ranked fifth at 4.2 percent; Mendocino 13th at 5.1 percent; and Lake 33rd at 6.6 percent.

Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, noted that the only counties with lower unemployment rates than Sonoma and Napa all have more jobs in the tech sector.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit

Read this article in Spanish at La Prensa Sonoma.