Sonoma County's jobless rate unchanged

Job growth accelerated in October for the third straight month in Sonoma County, where the local economy has now created 9,200 jobs over the past year, the state reported Friday.

The job growth figures — the largest year-over-year gains in more than a decade — are the latest evidence the local economy is slowly strengthening, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

"Our recovery has been gradual. It's been picking up speed over the last few months and I think there's generally more confidence now," Stone said.

Overall, there were 185,000 wage and salary jobs in the county, the highest number since December 2008, the state Employment Development Department reported.

Unemployment remained flat at 7.6 percent in October, unchanged from a month ago but well below last year's estimate of 9.3 percent.

"This is as steep a descent (in the jobless rate) as we've had in recent memory," said Rob Eyler, who heads the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University. "The signs are good. They're broad-based. There's not one industry pulling us along, but it's certainly better now than it was 18 months ago."

Locally, the greatest growth was in the manufacturing sector, which added 1,500 jobs compared to a year ago. The growth also was strong among durable goods, which include computers and electronics and grew 8.3 percent over the year, and non-durable goods like wine, which grew 6.1 percent over the year.

"The manufacturing growth is pretty amazing," Stone said. "Manufacturing probably has the highest multiplier effect, so it's a real boost to the economy."

Manufacturing jobs tend to have good salaries and benefits, and bring additional money from outside the county as goods like wine and technology products are sold, he said.

Private education and health services added 1,400 jobs over the year, while trade, transportation and utilities, as well as business and professional services, each added 1,300. Leisure and hospitality added 1,100 jobs compared to a year ago. The government sector added 1,100 jobs over the year, with the most jobs added in local education.

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