Sonoma County unemployment fell to 8.6 percent in April — its lowest mark in more than three years — fueled by job growth in the private sector, state labor analysts said Friday.
The number of unemployed job-seekers has dropped more than 10 percent in the past year, according to the state Employment Development Department.
"That's better than usual," said Linda Wong, a state labor market consultant.
Still, the local economy created just 100 non-farm jobs over the last 12 months, as private industry growth was offset by job cuts in the government sector.
Manufacturing, construction, hospitality and business and professional services added 3,400 jobs over the past year.
But government employment is down by 2,700 during the same period. Finance, information and retail also lost jobs in the last year.
About 22,300 county residents were looking for work last month, compared to 24,900 a year ago.
Sonoma County's jobless rate had not been below 9 percent since January 2009, when it was 8.4 percent. The April figures are good news, said Ben Stone, director of Sonoma County's Economic Development Board.
Unemployment stood at 9.6 percent a year ago, and was 9.5 percent in March.
But there's been little growth in the county's labor force during the last three years, a sign that some of the jobless have stopped looking for work, he said.
"There are people who are sitting it out," said Stone.
Manufacturing has added the most Sonoma County jobs over the past year, gaining 1,600 positions, according to the state. Business and professional services added 1,000.
"We are seeing real improvement in the private sector," said Stone. "But the public sector is still feeling the pain."
County government and K-12 education took the biggest hits, with employment down more than 10 percent from last year. With more budget cuts on the horizon, don't expect much job growth in the public sector for at least another year, Stone said.
California's employment picture also improved in April, as the economy added more than 175,000 non-farm jobs. The state's jobless rate was 10.9 percent in April, down from 11.8 percent a year ago.
U.S. unemployment was 8.1 percent last month.
More than 1.1 million California residents received regular or extended unemployment insurance benefits in April. Meanwhile, more than 681,000 have exhausted all benefits, up to the 99-week maximum.
Other North Bay counties saw jobless rates dip in April. Marin County reported 6.4 percent unemployment, compared to 7 percent in March.
Napa posted 8.3 percent, down from 9 percent in March.
In Mendocino County, the April jobless rate was 10.5 percent, compared to 11.5 percent for the prior month.
Lake County reported 15.6 percent, down from 16.9 percent in March.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here