Unemployment inched up slightly in Sonoma County to 7.7 percent in November, largely the result of seasonal job cuts in vineyards and wineries after the end of the grape harvest, the state reported Friday.
The county lost 3,600 jobs between October and November, mostly in farming, wine production and the tourism sector, according to figures released by the state Employment Development Department.
The losses were partially offset by hiring at retail stores, which added 600 jobs as they geared up for the holiday shopping season.
Despite the seasonal cuts, the local economy is now enjoying one of its longest and most vigorous periods of uninterrupted job growth since hiring began to slow in Sonoma County in 2007.
Employers have now added 8,300 jobs over the last year, expanding their payrolls for seven straight months, compared to levels from the previous year, the EDD reported.
Manufacturing added 1,600 jobs over the year, and construction added 1,000 positions.
"I thought it was pretty encouraging that we're continuing to see a rise in manufacturing and construction," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. "Those were particularly hard hit during the recession. To see them come back is really proof positive that we're seeing a recovery."
Overall, there were 182,000 wage and salary jobs in Sonoma County last month, up from 173,700 jobs a year ago.
Those added jobs will have a ripple effect on retail, as workers spend their paychecks at local stores and service providers, Stone said.
"The growth in manufacturing and construction is having an impact on services across the board, because those industries tend to lead the economy," said Rob Eyler, who heads the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.
An estimated 20,100 unemployed job-seekers were actively looking for work in November, down from 23,100 a year ago, when unemployment stood at 9.1 percent in Sonoma County.
When seasonal forces are considered, unemployment has remained relatively flat this fall. The jobless rate was 7.6 percent in September and October.
The changes are fairly typical for this time of year, and in line with the county's 10-year average, said Linda Wong, North Bay labor market consultant for the EDD.
"The total farm, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, those were the biggest movers of that month, and that's where you're seeing all that job loss," Wong said. "All the changes were pretty typical. Nothing too out of the ordinary."
Once again, Marin County had the state's lowest unemployment rate, at 5.8 percent. In Napa County, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent, in Mendocino County it was 9.1 percent, and in Lake County it was 14.5 percent.
Statewide, the unemployment rate decreased to 9.8 percent in November, falling into single digits for the first time in four years.
The relatively flat unemployment is likely due to the uncertainty over taxes and government spending, Eyler said. That makes predicting next month's hiring next to impossible.
"Unfortunately, there's so many balls in the air and they're so variable, that it's hard to know," Eyler said.