Unemployment rises in Sonoma County in July

Sonoma County's jobless rate inched up to 10.3 percent in July, as recent college graduates struggled to find work, state labor analysts said Friday.

Unemployment has now been in double digits for all but four of the last 26 months. In June, it was 10.1 percent.

Although job growth has slowed, the local economy is still stronger than it was a year ago, when 10.7 percent of the labor force was out of work. Sonoma County has gained 1,000 non-farm jobs over the past year, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The jobless rate normally rises in mid-summer as schools are closed. Non-contract teachers are counted as unemployed unless they have temporary jobs, said Linda Wong, a labor market consultant for the state.

College graduates were testing the labor market last month, Wong said. "They might not find a job right away," she said.

The best job prospects for new college grads are in fields such as engineering and health care, said Ben Stone, who heads Sonoma County's Economic Development Board. It's important for grads to gain work experience, even if it's outside their fields of study, he said.

"You're more likely to get hired if you can show you can get things done," Stone said.

Sonoma County's job market has improved since 2010, with year-over-year job growth for eight consecutive months, Wong said. The strongest gains were in construction, hospitality, business and professional services, health care and manufacturing.

Manufacturing gained 300 jobs between June and July while construction added 400 jobs during the month, better than the 21-year average, Wong said.

"That was one of the bright spots," she said.

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