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NORTH BAY -- Unemployment rates in early 2012 remained similar to where they ended in 2011, although every county saw a drop from the previous year, according to state figures released this morning.

Much of the monthly increase in unemployment, however, can be attributed to a seasonal slowdown in numerous sectors, among them retail, leisure and hospitality and education, said Ruth Kavanagh, a labor market consultant with the Employment Development Department.

"Typically, there is a seasonal increase in unemployment," she said. "The same general trend occurred throughout the Bay Area, and (unemployment) edged up in January." 

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Sonoma County had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, slightly above December's 9 percent but below the January 2011 rate of 10.6 percent. The county shed 700 jobs over the month and lost 100 over the year, according to the EDD. But certain key sectors did see growth, Ms. Kavanagh said, including professional services, which posted a yearly gain of 600 jobs.

"We did have seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs growth," Ms. Kavanagh said. "We did better than usual."

Marin County, part of a three-county statistical region that includes San Francisco and San Mateo counties, continued to post the lowest rate in the state, at 6.6 percent, down from 8.1 percent from a year before and barely changed from December's rate of 6.5 percent. Job-growth figures for the county weren't available.

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The Napa County rate increased to 9.2 percent in January from 8.8 percent in December, but was down considerably from 10.6 percent at the beginning of last year. The county shed 1,100 jobs over the month but gained 1,300 over the year -- nearly half in the hospitality and leisure sector, which posted a yearly gain of 500 jobs. Manufacturing also posted a 500-jobs gain over the year, while professional services and education and health services added 300 and 200, respectively, over the year.  

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Solano County's rate was 10.8 percent in January, slightly up from 10.4 percent in December but below the previous January rate of 12.4 percent. Over the month, 1,000 jobs were shed, but over the year total industry employment jumped by 3,600. Growth occurred the leisure and hospitality field, which posted a yearly gain of 1,900 jobs, and the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 1,100 jobs over the year. Another 800 jobs were added over the year in education and health services. 

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Mendocino County's rate was 10.7 percent in January, up from 10.2 percent in December but below 12.4 percent in January of last year. Total reported jobs at 28,250 were barely changed during 2011, up 0.4 percent. Year-over-year growth occurred in trade, transportation and utilities, which added 130 jobs, and construction, which added 100 jobs.

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Lake County's rate was 16.5 percent in January, up from 16 percent in December but below the previous January rate of 19 percent. The county added 420 jobs -- 390 just in farming -- over the year, while shedding 60 over the month.

The comparable California unemployment rate in January was 10.9 percent, while nationally it was 8.3 percent.

 Total industry jobs in North Bay counties

CountyJanuary

2011December

2011January

2012State rank

(out of 58)

Lake25,54025,43025,68043

Marinnanana1

Mendocino42,55042,44042,51018

Napa61,60064,00062,9009

Solano117,100121,700120,70019

Sonoma172,000172,600171,9009

California2,223,0002,060,0002,020,000--

U.S.13,919,00013,097,00012,758,000--

Source: California Employment Development Department