Some clouds

Sonoma County unemployment rate up to 7.1 percent

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.

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