Sonoma County's jobless rate fell to 6.1 percent in September and stayed there in October as the local economy continued to grow, the state reported Friday.
The numbers illustrate the slow but steady progress away from the double-digit jobless rates during the recession, when unemployment peaked in Sonoma County at 11.2 percent in early 2010.
A year ago, the jobless rate had dropped to 7.8 percent and it has continued to decline as employers expand their payrolls. Over the last year, the local economy has added 2,200 jobs, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.
“I think the big news for me is the year-over-year numbers,” said Ben Stone, director of the county's Economic Development Board. “2,200 jobs is really good news.”
The numbers are the first figures on the direction of the local job market in two months. The release of September's data was delayed by a month because of the federal government shutdown.
The county's jobless rate is inching closer to what is considered full employment, generally measured at between 5 and 6 percent, Stone said.
Some of the job gains are seasonal, said Robert Eyler, director of Sonoma State University's Center for Regional Economic Analysis. The retail sector added 400 jobs between September and October of this year, perhaps a sign of businesses gearing up for the holiday season.
But despite the temporary hires, many industries showed longer-term growth between 2012 and 2013. Eyler attributed much of that to relatively low-wage, service-oriented jobs to meet the needs of people moving to Sonoma County. Eyler also pointed to a recent hiring spree by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the tribe that opened the Graton Resort & Casino in early November. The special districts sector, which includes Indian tribes, added 1,400 jobs between September and October, according to the Economic Development Board report.
Two industries — leisure and hospitality, or tourism, and trade and transportation and utilities, which includes retail — saw the biggest gains year over year, adding 800 jobs each. Educational and health services, a market growing as Sonoma County's population ages, added 500 jobs. The government sector added 400 jobs.
Sonoma County compared favorably to the rest of the state and nation. Statewide, unemployment remained flat in California at 8.7 percent in September and October, while the U.S. unemployment rate grew to 7.3 percent in October, up from 7.2 percent in September.
Of California's 58 counties, Sonoma County now has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate. Marin County maintains the lowest jobless rate, at 4.8 percent in October. Unemployment was 5.3 percent in Napa County; 7.1 in Mendocino County; and 11.5 in Lake County.