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Sonoma County’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in September, its lowest level in eight years, down from a revised 4.3 percent in August as the local economy continues to show strong job growth.

Local employers have added 5,200 wage and salary jobs over the past year, boosting employment to a record 206,800 jobs, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

Unemployment has fallen to levels not reached since May 2007, shortly before the crash in the residential real estate market that triggered the Great Recession. The jobless rate, which peaked in March 2010 at 11.4 percent, stood at 5.1 percent a year ago. Today, the county enjoys the sixth-lowest jobless rate among California’s 58 counties.

“The takeaway is that we are firing on all eight cylinders now,” said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

Statewide, unemployment dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, dipping to 5.9 percent in September. The U.S. jobless rate was unchanged in September at 5.1 percent.

To get a sense of how much Sonoma County’s job outlook has rebounded since the Great Recession, one might take a look at the job fair being held on Saturday near Healdsburg Square.

SoFi, the San Francisco-based marketplace lender, is hosting the event at its satellite office on Healdsburg Avenue as it looks to hire at least 40 more employees to reach a total of 200 by year’s end. The company has been in the Healdsburg office only since September 2014 and is already on its second expansion, an additional 10,000 square feet above Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar.

“Even as the unemployment rate drops in Sonoma County, we’ve been very fortunate and are still finding qualified employees,” said Debra Jack, SoFi spokeswoman, in an email. “We’re finding that Sonoma County is full of great talent. … On occasion, we do look out of the area for more specialized positions if the skill set is more difficult to find in the North Bay.”

The county added 2,100 jobs between August and September, largely the reflection of seasonal job gains. Local schools, along with Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, accounted for 1,600 jobs as classes resumed after summer break.

Those gains were offset by the loss of 800 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector as the summer tourism season ended.

The strength in the local labor market can be seen in the decline of the number of applicants for Job Link, the local one-stop job and career center operated by the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board. It served slightly more than 4,000 applicants during its most recent fiscal year, down from 7,400 in fiscal 2012, said Jessica Taylor, manager.

“There just aren’t as many people looking for work,” Taylor said.

Employers in some sectors are desperately trying to find workers, she said. Some poach from others in their sector, while others realize they must provide more opportunity and benefits, including higher pay, if they want to maintain their staffing levels.

For example, Taylor noted that one transportation company was exploring ways that it could hire ex-offenders, a group that typically has been discouraged from applying because of the thorough background checks used in the sector.

County projects in progress or coming soon

County builders are moving ahead on at least 20 housing projects, including:

In Santa Rosa and Roseland:

Village Station, 110-unit multi-family subdivision, near Sebastopol Road

Paseo Vista, 122 single-family units and 15 triplexes, on Dutton Avenue

Aria Place, 55-unit single-family project, on San Miguel Avenue

Skyhawk 9 and 10, 35-unit single-family project, near Sunhawk Drive

Rincon Place, 32 single-family units, near Mission Boulevard and Hwy. 12

In Rohnert Park:

University District, 400 units for the first phase

Southeast Specific Plan Area, 100 units for phase one

Reserve at Dowdell, 84-unit multi-family project on Dowdell Avenue

In Windsor:

Victoria Oaks, 84 single-family units and six duplexes on Hembree Lane

In Petaluma:

The Artisan, a 144-unit apartment complex on Maria Drive

The construction industry is rebounding since being hammered during the recession as it went from a high of 15,600 workers in 2006 to a low of 7,900 in 2011. Employment has increased in six of the past seven months, growing to 12,400 in September, a gain of 1,600 jobs over the past year, according to the EDD. That growth will likely continue into 2016 as Lake County looks to rebuild after almost 2,000 structures were destroyed in the Valley fire.

Taylor said she has heard from the North Coast Builders Exchange, a local trade group, about the demand for construction workers, especially in remodeling as new residential building slowly recovers.

One employer focused on high-end remodeling jobs. “They hired seven people,” Taylor said. “These are pretty good jobs.”

Demand also is huge for mechanics who can work on hybrid-engine cars as well as those skilled in industrial sewing, she said.

In Mendocino County, unemployment fell to 4.6 percent in September, down from 5.1 percent in August and 6.0 percent a year ago.

In Lake County, the jobless rate declined to 6.0 percent in September, down from 6.5 percent in August and 7.8 percent a year ago.

In Napa County, unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent in September, down from 4.2 percent in August and 4.8 percent a year ago.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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