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Sonoma County job growth outpaces rest of California, says expert

Jobs are being created faster in Sonoma County than in any other county in California, although growth will slow later this year, a prominent economist said Wednesday.

"Enormous progress has been made here," said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at the widely watched UCLA Anderson Forecast. "You all are outperforming everywhere else in the state."

Both the Bay Area and the nation as a whole are heading into a period of slower economic growth, although the local economy should outperform the rest of the country, Nickelsburg told nearly 500 local business executives and civic leaders Wednesday at the annual State of the County forum held in Rohnert Park.

But the region's economy staged a steady comeback in 2012.

Although year-end figures are not yet available, employment in Sonoma County grew 4.9 percent during the 12-month period ending in November, excluding farm jobs, according to the county Economic Development Board.

"Even during very difficult times, our business growth has been strong," EDB Executive Director Ben Stone said. "This is a sign that points to a high level of economic activity, a healthy business environment and a good predictor of job growth."

Two of the hardest-hit industries during the recession -- manufacturing and construction -- have been among the fastest-growing local sectors in the past year, the EDB report said.

"Sonoma County has managed to recover some 17,000 of the 25,000 jobs we lost since 2008," said Supervisor David Rabbitt. "Even so, we recognize that there is more that needs to be done."

The region is shifting from an industrial economy to one based on the flow of information, resulting in job growth in education and information; professional, scientific and technical services; and advanced manufacturing.

Nickelsburg described the state's economy as divided into "two Californias." One, the coastal region, has a thriving economy based on technology, trade and information. The other, the inland region, has been slower to recover, in part because of its reliance on migration, construction and growth in government.

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