Sonoma County unemployment rate drops

Sonoma County's unemployment rate fell sharply in April to 5.3 percent, the lowest level in nearly six years, as job creation accelerated for the third straight month.

The jobless rate dropped from 6.2 percent in March, according to the state Employment Development Department. A year ago it was 6.7 percent.

Employment and economic development officials said the job numbers demonstrate significant gains in the county's economy.

"They reflect the confidence of the many business people that I'm dealing with," said Carolyn Stark, executive director of Sonoma County BEST, a job creation program.

When employers were hiring a few years ago, they mainly sought veteran workers who "could hit the ground running," Stark said. She called it a positive development that more companies now are willing to invest in training for less-experienced employees.

"They're going to be growing these folks on the job," she said.

The county's jobless rate remained well below the state's rate of 7.8 percent, as well as below the national rate of 6.3 percent.

The last time the county had an unemployment rate this low was May 2008, when it stood at 5 percent.

Unemployment has now been cut in half since the winter of 2010, when 28,500 Sonoma County residents were out of work and unable to find a job. In April, 13,700 residents were unemployed.

"That's really a big drop," said Ben Stone, executive director of the county Economic Development Board.

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