Unemployment drops across North Bay in February

Unemployment rates across the North Bay dropped to their lowest level since 2008 in February -- in some counties by more than a full percentage point -- as the holiday lull in hiring gave way to positive growth in a number of industries, according to recently released state figures.

The locally improved employment picture mirrored improvements in unadjusted unemployment rates for California, down to 9.7 percent from 11.3 percent a year before and 10.4 percent in January, and for the nation's 8.1 percent rate last month, down slightly from 8.7 percent the previous February and 8.5 percent in January.

Five of the six North Bay counties added 13,900 jobs over 12 months. Job data on Marin County isn't available yet.

Sonoma adds 6,300 jobs

The Sonoma County unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in February, down from 9.4 percent a year before and a revised 8.3 percent rate in January and the lowest it's been since 2008, according to the Employment Development Department.

Phil Vo, career development manager at Empire College in Santa Rosa, echoed the recent improvements in hiring, noting that the college has had more than double direct job placements for new students over the year.

"I definitely feel business is climbing back up," Mr. Vo said. "We've had 65 placements this compared to 30 last year. Businesses are growing."

The county gained 6,300 jobs over 12 months. Service industries were most active in hiring. Bouncing back from post-holiday de-staffing in January, retailers (particularly, food and beverage businesses), wholesalers and logistics businesses had a net gain of 1,800 jobs, over the year, followed by 1,300 added positions over the year in leisure and hospitality.

Mr. Vo similarly said he's seen an across-the-board improvement in hiring, with particular gains IT, the legal industry, hospitality, accounting, business administration and medical.

Other positive yearly gains occurred in education and health services, as schools returned from winter break, and professional and business services, with each adding 800 jobs. Between January and February, a number of industries bounced back after the holiday lull, with construction adding back 400 jobs, while leisure and hospitality, education and health services and professional and business services each added 300 jobs. Over the month, Sonoma County had a net gain of 1,700 jobs.

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