Sonoma County employers are slowly putting out help-wanted signs again.
There were 4,600 local job openings posted in July, up from 4,000 in January, according to a new report by The Conference Board and state labor analysts.
While there are still six unemployed people for every job opening, the county's job market is slowly improving.
"It's a slow but consistent upward trend in employment," said Eduardo Martinez, an economist who tracks Sonoma County business trends for Moody's Analytics.
But recent turmoil in world markets could interrupt the growth, said Ben Stone, who heads Sonoma County's Economic Development Board.
"People were hiring two months ago, but they may be more cautious today because of the financial turbulence in Europe and slowing of the Chinese economy," he said.
Unemployment has been at or near double digits for more than two years in Sonoma County, where there are 26,000 unemployed job-seekers looking for work.
The health care sector continues to generate the most job openings in Sonoma County. Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Sutter Health and the Medical Staffing Network were among the employers with the most ads in July.
Santa Rosa City Schools, Petaluma solar component maker Enphase Energy, Staples office supply stores and two other staffing companies also were in the top 10.
Still, help-wanted ads are far below the levels seen before the recession. Sonoma County employers posted nearly 7,000 jobs a month in 2007.
The number fell to 3,000 in 2009 and 2010.
The state Employment Development Department compiles the data periodically from The Conference Board's Help Wanted OnLine service. It tracks the number of new and reposted job ads from 1,200 major Internet sites and smaller sites that serve niche and regional markets.
The Conference Board is a New York-based economic research organization.
The report sheds light on the job skills in demand by Sonoma County employers. Four of the top 10 job titles were in health care, with registered nurses leading all advertised openings.
Occupational therapists, physical therapists and medical and health services managers also are in demand.
The other leading occupations are retail sales associates, retail sales managers, truck drivers, customer service representatives, executive secretaries and administrative assistants.
Santa Rosa was the county's strongest job market, with 2,451 help-wanted ads posted in July, according to the report. Petaluma was second with 801 openings.