NORTH BAY - Twenty-year business owner Dana Carnes admitted that success as a staffing company in Solano County, which has the region's highest unemployment rate, has been challenging, but, as with several of her industry colleagues, business seems to be picking up a bit as of late.

The owner of former Bay Span Inc. was recently able to expand the focus of her Fairfield company to "prime for the return of the economy" and to reach out to Napa customers for the first time. Now called BSI Temporary Services, the staffing company moved to a new location in Fairfield, added a chief financial officer and augmented its portfolio to include new specialty industries.

"We are so centrally located for the wine industry. Napa is really an untapped resource for us," Ms. Carnes said.

"Definitely in the last year we have felt the pressure from the economy, but it's already starting to pick up."

Like elsewhere in the North Bay, unemployment rates are still increasing, according to the Employment Development Department, hitting 11.3 percent in Solano, 10.2 percent in Sonoma, 8.8 percent in Napa and 8 percent in Marin in June.

But North Bay hiring experts said they have actually experienced increased business in recent months.

"We have absolutely seen things pick up recently, in a variety of industries, from businesses that maybe had to go through layoffs but see things starting to pick up, but can't commit to a long-term person," said Sonoma County-based Star Staffing Chief Executive Officer Carla Shevchuk.

North Bay Regional Vice President for Robert Half International Deja Vintner said July was her branch's best month this year.

"I think companies are not feeling as nervous and are reinvesting where they need to. So many scaled back so drastically in Q1 and Q2, they are finding they can't be so lean and mean anymore," she said.