Sonoma County jobless rate drops to 7.6%, lowest since Dec. 2008

Unemployment declined in Sonoma County for the third straight month, sinking to 7.6 percent in September, its lowest level since December 2008, the state announced Friday.

The jobless rate fell from a revised 8.3 percent in August, and was well below the year-ago estimate of 9.5 percent.

"This is proof positive that we're in a much stronger recovery now, and headed in the right direction," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

Statewide, unemployment tumbled from 10.6 percent in August to an estimated 10.2 percent in September, its largest drop in 36 years. A year ago, unemployment stood at 11.7 percent in California.

"It is a significant drop," EDD spokesman Kevin Callori said. "It is an encouraging sign, and it is consistent with the overall trend which is increasing jobs."

Marin County had the lowest unemployment rate in California, at 5.8 percent. Mendocino County's jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent, Lake County fell to 13.4 percent, and Napa County dipped 6.9 percent.

In Sonoma County, the local economy added 2,100 jobs from August to September, mostly in the government sector as schools re-opened.

"Most of that was a seasonal change," said Linda Wong, a labor market consultant for EDD.

But the local economy is clearly in better shape than it was a year ago. Employers have now added jobs for five straight months, compared to levels from a year earlier, following a string of job losses in six of the seven preceding months.

Over the past year, the county has gained 6,600 jobs. Manufacturing, which includes the wine industry, was the most productive sector, adding 1,600 jobs.

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