Sonoma County jobless rate drops to 3.7% in November, lowest in pandemic
Sonoma County’s unemployment rate continued its downward trend in November, hitting 3.7%, which represents the lowest mark since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.
The county’s jobless rate dropped from a revised 4.2% level in October, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.
The level is a stark departure from the 15.4% rate of April 2020, the height of the economic shutdown triggered by COVID-19 when the region and the country were under shelter-in-place orders. The figure also nears the level before the crisis. March 2020 was at 3.3%, and February 2020 registered a 2.8% jobless figure.
There were 9,200 Sonoma County residents with unemployment claims last month, which represented a 13% decrease from October and a 33% drop from November 2020, according to the state agency.
Civilian employment stood at 247,600 workers last month, which was down 1,700 from October and still about 8,000 jobs behind the start of the pandemic, said Sonoma State University economist Robert Eyler.
With the jobless level coming back to recent historical norms, Eyler said, the major focus for local economic development officials and business leaders will be on job growth — specifically, when will the county workforce reach the 255,000 jobs it had at the start of the pandemic in March 2020?
“That’s the question of the day,” Eyler said. In the new year, Eyler said, he will examine whether people have left the workforce and are not looking for a job; have retired or left the area; or whether positions are going unfilled by employers.
Job loss has been more significant in the leisure and hospitality sector, Eyler said. Some employers like Russian River Brewing Co. are not looking to hire back to their pre-pandemic level. Hotels are also looking to make do with less staff. Government jobs also have not gone back to the level of almost two years ago, he added.
“On the demand side, you may have models that have shifted specifically in restaurants to where there's not going to be as much demand for those workers,” Eyler said.
Copperfield’s Books, which has 10 North Bay locations, has fared much better than local restaurants in trying to fill positions as the bookshop has been mostly fully staffed during the holiday season, said co-owner Paul Jaffe.
“We’ve been very blessed with people who really want to work at Copperfield’s. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some issues getting fully staffed. But for the most part, it’s not been a chronic issue,” Jaffe said.
Other local industries have rebounded in hiring, Eyler said, specifically noting that the construction, manufacturing and transportation fields are back to levels from almost two years ago.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or email@example.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.
Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat
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