North Bay unemployment dips in August

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dipped slightly across the North Bay in August, with several industries seeing increased hiring activity, according to figures released this morning by the state Economic Development Department.

Sonoma County had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent -- the lowest rate in three years -- in August, down from a 8.6 percent in July and below last year's rate of 9.9 percent.

Over the year, the county had a net gain of 6,500 jobs and positive job growth for the fourth straight month. The manufacturing sector adding 1,400 jobs -- 500 over the month -- followed by professional and business services and health and education services, which each added 1,300 over the year. Trade, transportation and utilities and construction posted annual gains of 900 and 800, respectively.

The government sector was the only one to post a yearly loss, at 300. But over the month it added 1,100 jobs, with a 1,400-job gain in local education as the school year began.

Overall, the state's economy is showing slow but steady improvement, according to Beacon Economics, which has an office in San Rafael. Over the year, California added 298,700 jobs, a 2.1 percent increase. The state employment rate was 10.4 percent last month, above the national average of 8.1 percent.

That may appear to be lackluster, but Beacon Economics noted the state remains one of the country's top job markets.

"California remains one of the top 10 labor markets in the country and is poised for continued, although measured, growth through 2013," the Beacon Employment Report said. "The state has seen a strong recovery in consumer and business spending, and its housing market is working its way back from post-recession lows."

Over the year, private industry payrolls have increased by 322,100, or 2.8 percent, according the Beacon Economics.

The jobless rate in Solano County was 10 percent, down from 10.3 percent in July and below the year-ago estimate of 11.5 percent.

Solano had a net gain of 2,400 jobs over the previous 12 months. Leading the way in net annual job growth was trade, transportation and utilities, which added 900 positions overall. Leisure and hospitality added 700, while education and health services and professional services added 600 and 500 jobs, respectively.

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