Continued low unemployment in most North Bay counties

North Bay unemployment rates continue to decline and, in most areas, stay well below the state and national jobless rates, according state Employment Development Department figures released today.

Of all the counties in the North Bay, Marin at 2.1 percent continued to claim the lowest rate. The statewide jobless rate was 3.8 percent while the EDD reported the national rate was 3.7 percent.

Marin County was the second lowest in the state, edged out by San Mateo County at 2 percent. Rankings for other North Bay counties: Sonoma, 5th; Napa 9th; Solano, 20th ; Mendocino 24th; and Lake 33.

Robert Eyler, economist at Sonoma State University, said of Sonoma and Marin's low jobless rate, 'These are place want to live, so that helps propel the numbers downward. Both of these counties are feeding off the greater Bay Area. It's a frothy region for jobs.'

The low numbers, however, aren't forecast to drop below 2 percent.

'If it does, it won't be there for very long,' he said. 'There's no fundamental reason to expect the labor market will turn and go the other way this year.'

Looking more broadly at April's unemployment figures for the region, the other counties throughout the North Bay—Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake –aren't notably higher. Collectively, they hover at or below 3.8 percent, the statewide jobless rate.

'I think the underlying idea is that this is a regional marketplace, so these counties all read into the figures,' Eyler said. 'Looking at one county won't give you a true sense of [the big picture].'

The lowest unemployment numbers in both Marin and Sonoma counties are largely a reflection of the labor force.

'People in those counties tend to work around the region,' he said. 'The education level tends to be higher in these two counties, and part of it is the demography of the residents.'

Looking ahead, the largest challenges for Marin and Sonoma counties will be in terms of the regional environment.

'It's really going to be how we're allocating labor and how much pressure there is on the housing market,' he said. 'We've been hiring and chewing off what's available out there.'

As the labor force shrinks, employers will need to consider raising wages in order to compete for top talent, Eyler said, adding that there hasn't been a large pay hike since the end of the recession.

Highlights by county of the report:

Marin County

Its unemployment rate in April declined to 2.1 percent from March's 2.3 percent rate. A year ago, the rate was 2.8 percent. The rate has declined since January of this year when it was 2.5 percent.

Total employment was 115,800 jobs which is just a 400 job gain since April of 2017, the EDD figures show.

Sonoma County

Its rate continued to fall from 2.8 in March to 2.5 percent in April. The March figure was an 18-year-low. A year ago at this time, the rate was 3.3 percent. The local economy created 3,200 jobs over the past year.

Farm jobs gained 6.8 percent in March to 6,300 with the gain year over year at 1.6 percent. The gain in March for non-farm jobs was .3 and 1.5 percent year over year to 208,400.

In specific industries, construction jobs were up 7.1 percent year over year to 13,600 jobs.

Napa County

Its unemployment rate in April was 2.8 percent, down from 3.2 percent in March and down from 3.6 percent a year ago. Since January the rate has declined from 4 percent.

The county added just 200 jobs over the past year reaching 77,300 jobs. Farm jobs in April gained 10 percent.

Solano County

Its unemployment rate in April was reported at 3.6 percent, down from 4 percent in March. A year ago, the rate was 4.7 percent. Since January, the rate has declined from 4.5 percent.

Total employment in the county in April was 141,600, a gain of 2,500 jobs since April 2017 – all of it in the non-farm category. Year over year mining, logging and construction jobs gained 1,800 jobs.

Mendocino County

Its unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in April, down .6 from March and 1 percent from April, 2017. Since January, the rate has declined from 4.6 percent.

The number of farm jobs in the county was up 3.1 percent, but down 7 percent in a year-over-year comparison. The EDD reported hospitality jobs increased in April over March as did hospitality, logging and construction.

Lake County

The EDD reported that the unemployment rate in April was 5 percent, a .5 percent decline from March and a .7 percent dip from April, 2017. The number of jobs in the county was 17,090, up 2.5 percent from April, 2017.

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