Sonoma County's unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in July, reflecting a seasonal drop in education jobs, the state reported Friday.

Despite the increase from 6.7 percent in June, the jobless rate remained well below the estimate of 8.9 percent from a year earlier.

Payrolls grew for the 14th consecutive month on a year-over-year basis, a sign the local job market continues to gain strength.

"It's just proof positive that we continue on a recovery path," said Ben Stone, director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

The recovery has been "slower than people like," Stone said, but he noted it is steady and broad-based with job growth in a variety of sectors.

The local economy shed 2,200 jobs between June and July, when total employment dropped to 178,800, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. The biggest dip was tied to public education, which lost 3,200 jobs from June as teachers and other school employees went on summer break. The sector experienced a similar, though smaller, decline last summer.

Losses in education were partly offset by hiring in other sectors. Farm employment grew by 300 jobs in July from June. The private educational and health services sector added 300 jobs. Construction, manufacturing, leisure/hospitality and professional and business services each added 200 jobs from June.

"Most of the changes were pretty typical of this time of year," said Linda Wong, North Bay labor market consultant for the EDD.

Statewide, unemployment also climbed last month to 8.7 percent, up from 8.5 percent in June. The nation's rate declined to 7.4 percent from 7.6 percent in June.

Sonoma had the eighth-lowest jobless rate among the state's 58 counties in July.

Marin ranked first with an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent, up from 5.1 percent in June. Napa ranked fourth at 6 percent, compared to 5.8 percent in the previous month.

Mendocino ranked 16th at 7.9 percent, an increase from June's rate of 7.4 percent, and Lake ranked 46th at 12.5 percent, up from 12 percent.

Stone noted that a number of California counties haven't recovered from the last recession as well as Sonoma has. Unemployment in July stood at 9.2 percent in Sacramento County, 10.8 percent in both Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and 11.1 percent in Riverside County.

In the last year, Sonoma County employers added 600 jobs each in leisure/hospitality, private education and health services and professional and business services. The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 500 jobs.

County government added 500 jobs in the last year, an increase of 13.6 percent, according to the report. Meanwhile, local school districts shed 1,600 jobs, a decline of 14.4 percent.

Job creation will continue to be a challenge, Stone said, because generally "the jobs we had before the crash are not going to come back."

Automation and foreign competition will continue to impede job growth, he said.