Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate in December increased to 7.6 percent, after staying steady for several months at 7.3 percent.
It’s still an overall improvement from the previous year, when the county had an 8.5 percent rate in December, which is a trend shared by the state.
California’s rate was unchanged in December, recorded at 9.8 percent, which is well above the national rate of 7.8 percent.
The job market is still “sluggish,” so the trend continues with minimal job gains or losses, said Raymond McDonald, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board.
The largest job losses in the county were in government — particularly education — and professional and business services.
Because December’s numbers include the holiday shopping season, it’s no surprise that the biggest month-over-month gain was in retail jobs, including restaurants, which are likely seasonal, McDonald said.
There are higher unemployment rates in the North County than the South Coast, according to Employment Development Department data.
Santa Maria reported 12 percent unemployment; Lompoc had 13.5 percent; and Orcutt had 8.6 percent in December, according to the EDD.
Vandenberg Air Force Base reported 12.2 percent unemployment, and Vandenberg Village reported a 6.5-percent unemployment rate.
Buellton reported 5.5 percent, Santa Ynez reported 3.8 percent and Solvang reported 2.9 percent unemployment rates.
On the South Coast, Carpinteria reported 3.8 percent unemployment, Santa Barbara reported 5.4 percent and Goleta reported 3.8 percent.
There are 229,400 people in the county’s labor force, so the 7.6 percent unemployment rate includes 17,500 unemployed people.
California’s unemployment rate is unchanged from November, at 9.8 percent, which is an improvement from 11.2 percent in December 2011. Last year, there was a total gain of 225,900 jobs, according to the Employment Development Department.
Between December 2011 and December 2012, the leisure and hospitality industry gained the most jobs — 60,700 — and the information sector gained 21,200 jobs.
Government had the most job losses, with 31,500 fewer in December than in 2011.
Between November and December, the educational and health services industry added the most jobs, followed by construction and information sectors.
Like California, the national rate didn’t change from November. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia reported lower unemployment rates in December than the previous year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.