Hiring activity across the North Bay is picking up as the summer season slowdown comes to a close, particularly as the wine industry ramps up for harvest season and other employers continue to see improvements, according to employment experts.
[caption id="attachment_77677" align="alignright" width="358"] Sonoma County employment and job growth (click to enlarge)[/caption]
In June, the most recent month for available statewide figures, Sonoma County's unemployment rate edged upward to 6.7 percent from 6.1 percent in May. Likewise in Napa County, the rate ticked up to 5.8 percent in June from a revised 5.3 percent in May. The same was true in Marin and Solano counties, as well.
The next round of data, from the Employment Development Department, is scheduled for Aug. 16.
Between June and now, hiring activity has picked up significantly, according to Kelley Hartman, regional vice president of Sonoma-based Nelson Staffing.
"There's definitely a huge uptick in the wineries and manufacturing in general," Ms. Hartman said. "A lot of entry level jobs are coming our way and we're also seeing an increase in direct hires.
[caption id="attachment_77680" align="alignleft" width="300"] Napa County employment and job growth (click to enlarge)[/caption]
"The market has definitely turned and there's a lot of jobs out there, especially entry level," Ms. Hartman added.
Several factors, in addition to the looming harvest season, are driving the hiring, among them a steady recovery across several sectors and large-scale retail and hospitality projects either just completed or nearing completion.
Such developments are making it difficult for employers to find qualified candidates, leading to a shortage and potentially giving the upper hand to job seekers instead of employers -- a sharp departure from the height of the recession a few years ago, according to Eric Huggins, branch manager for staffing firm Robert Half in Santa Rosa.
"I would say right now it's not really a buyer's market," Ms. Huggins said. "Companies need to make offers quickly. Individuals are seeing counter offers and multiple offers."
[caption id="attachment_77678" align="alignleft" width="359"] North Bay employment and job growth (click to enlarge)[/caption]
Unemployment rates have improved markedly over the year -- in June 2012, Sonoma County's rate was 8.9 percent, more than two points higher than the current rate. Napa County’s rate last year was 7.7 percent, also two points higher, while in Marin County -- the lowest rate in California -- last year's rate was 6.7 percent, nearly two points up from June 2013.
"I think candidates are starting to realize they can go for better opportunities," Ms. Hartman said, "so they’re exploring more. They're getting recruited."
Certain industries are seeing a higher level of demand, with the greatest demand seen for candidates with specialized skills, both Ms. Huggins and Ms. Hartman said.
"Things like accounting and finance and IT are definitely seeing shortages, and those positions are very prevalent now," Ms. Hartman said.
[caption id="attachment_77679" align="alignright" width="358"] North Bay retail jobs and job growth (click to enlarge)[/caption]
Nicole Smartt, co-owner and vice president of Petaluma-based Star Staffing, noted strong increases in those areas as well.
"During the last month, we have seen a 22 percent increase in the wine industry sector, a 14 percent increase in the manufacturing sector, and 40 percent in the professional sector," mainly in sales, engineering, executive administration and IT, she said.