North Bay jobless rates continue downward in March

Unemployment rates across the North Bay improved slightly in March and were well below the year-ago estimate, according to initial state estimates released Friday, and five of the six counties for which data was available added 13,600 jobs in the previous 12 months.Sonoma County

Sonoma County again led the North Bay in job growth, adding an estimated 7,400 jobs over the year, or 4 percent growth, according to the state Employment Development Department. The largest gain came in the government sector, which added 4,200 jobs.

As has been the case for the past few months, much of the government hiring is tied to the opening in November of Graton Resort and Casino, according to a state labor analyst. The Rohnert Park casino has said it will employ up to 2,000 full-time employees. Employment there is categorized under "local government, special districts and Indian tribes" because it’s owned by The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Retail -- part of the trade, transportation and utilities industry -- also factored heavily, adding 1,000 jobs over the year and growing at a rate of 4.4 percent. The biggest driver for that was hiring at general-merchandise stores, which had 15.6 percent year-over-year growth, adding 500 more jobs. That was spurred by the opening last year of Target, Dick's Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, Sprouts Farmers Market and smaller stores at East Washington Place regional mall in Petaluma.

Trade, transportation and utilities added 1,600 jobs over the year, while leisure and hospitality added 800 jobs. Manufacturing, which includes wine, added 700 and financial activities, 200.

Over the month, leisure and hospitality led the way in hiring, with 600 jobs. Construction and government each added 200.

The county's jobless rate was 6.2 percent in March, down from a revised 6.3 percent in February and below the March 2013 estimate of 7.3 percent.

That compares with the unadjusted unemployment rate for California of 8.4 percent and for the nation fo 6.8 percent in March.Marin County

Marin County continued to have the lowest estimated unemployment in California. The rate in March was 4.7 percent, down slightly from February's revised rate of 4.8 percent and lower still than the previous March rate of 5.2 percent.

Industry specifics are not yet available for Marin, part of a three-county statistical region that includes San Francisco and San Mateo County.Solano County

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