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Sonoma County unemployment falls to 8.6 percent

Unemployment in Sonoma County dipped in July even as seasonal forces ended the longest period of uninterrupted job growth since 2007, the state reported Friday.

The jobless rate slipped to 8.6 percent in July, down from 8.7 percent in June and 10.2 percent a year ago, the state Employment Development Department reported.

The county lost 2,400 jobs from June to July, ending a five-month string of employment gains. A decrease in jobs is typical in July, when public schools largely shut down and many employees are let go for the summer months.

"It's just normal summer," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. "We're losing jobs in education, but you see they're hiring people in tourism, leisure, and hospitality."

With a total of 179,800 jobs, the county still had 7,200 more jobs than it did at the same time last year.

Most of the month-to-month job losses were in government, which shed 3,700 jobs between June and July, primarily in schools. But local, state and federal government agencies have added 1,200 jobs in Sonoma County over the past year, even though municipalities have been faced with painful budget cuts.

"That's actually a trend through California," said Rob Eyler, who heads the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.

Last month's losses in government jobs offset gains in the private sector.

Employers reported 1,000 new jobs in trade, transportation and utilities compared to the same time last year, including 700 new retail jobs, Wong said. Leisure and hospitality gained 900 new jobs over the year, which included 600 new positions in bars and restaurants. Manufacturing also added 900 new jobs, including 400 in durable goods such as medical devices, and 500 in non-durable goods such as wine.

The end of the fiscal budget year and growing compliance requirements brought a need for employees skilled in finance, said Stephanie Vinski, regional vice president for Robert Half International. In finance and accounting, it's not uncommon now for skilled employees to have multiple job offers, she said.

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