Unemployment falls to 5.7 percent in Sonoma County

  • Zazu bartender Jennifer Bishop washes glasses before the dinner rush. Bishop was hired last August when the restaurant moved into a new space in the Barlow in Sebastopol.
    (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

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.

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