Sonoma County enters 2013 with 'positive momentum'

SONOMA COUNTY -- Boosted by wine, tourism and a growing medical device sector, Sonoma County's economy enters 2013 with "new positive momentum" and is expected to outpace the state and national averages for job growth next year, according to a quarterly economic report prepared by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

While headwinds remain, including sluggish demand for new home construction, the report draws a positive ascent for the county's economy after a period that saw unemployment as high as 10.4 percent in 2010.

[caption id="attachment_67181" align="alignleft" width="180"] Ben Stone[/caption]

"We're getting back to our historic norm," said Ben Stone, director of the Economic Development Board. "People three to four years ago thought they'd never see that again. We're seeing a gradual recovery, and we'll see it keep growing."

Unemployment in the county will drop to 8 percent by the end of 2013 and average 5.4 percent by 2016, according to the Fall 2012 Local Economic Report. Personal incomes, which were hit by a 7.1 percent decline in 2009, will continue to climb, with a 5.2 percent increase expected in 2013.

Existing home prices, currently averaging $344,200, are expected to increase to more than $355,000 this year and nearly $468,000 by 2016, according to the report. There were 388 single-family construction permits and 202 multifamily permits in 2012, with nearly 700 single-family permits and over 400 multifamily permits anticipated in 2013.

With inventory dwindling for single-family homes in Sonoma County, new construction for those homes is expected to accelerate in the coming years: 1,500 permits in 2014, 1,700 in 2015 and 1,500 in 2016. Multifamily construction will generally be level with 2013's bump for the next few years.

The county's gross metro product, a measure of all goods and services produced over one year, will climb 3.1 percent and reach $23.2 billion by 2016.

Standing out amid that overall gain are the wine, tourism and medical technology sectors.

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