Sonoma County unemployment rises to 8.7 percent

Unemployment in Sonoma County rose slightly to 8.7 percent in June, largely the result of seasonal forces as schools released employees for summer vacation, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The local economy added jobs for the fifth straight month, the longest period of uninterrupted job growth since early 2007. Over the past year, the county has gained 5,000 jobs, the EDD reported.

"We're not out of the woods yet, but we're making good progress out of the woods," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. "We're continuing to see more recovery, more jobs. Compared to last year, we're much better off."

Unemployment had been declining in Sonoma County during the spring, falling to 8.3 percent in May, its lowest level since 2008. But the jobless rate normally rises each June in Sonoma County, and this year was no exception.

Government was the only sector of the economy to shed jobs between May and June, losing 1,300 jobs, primarily at schools.

"This is pretty typical," said Linda Wong, a labor market consultant for the EDD. "School staff usually leave for the summer."

Still, the labor market has improved significantly over the last 12 months. A year ago, the jobless rate stood at 10.1 percent.

Total wage and salary jobs grew to 181,800 in June, the highest since January 2009.

Manufacturing saw the largest year-over-year gains, adding 1,500 jobs. The North Bay has added or held steady the number of manufacturing jobs for 21 straight months, Wong said.

"Manufacturing's been strong as the economy's recovering," Stone said. "Companies are buying, and making capital investments ... and they're buying stuff from Sonoma County companies, which is good."

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