The unemployment rate for Santa Barbara County decreased to 6 percent in April, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

This is down from a revised 7.2 percent in March, and below the year-ago estimate of 7.7 percent. This is compared with an unadjusted unemployment rate for California of 8.5 percent and 7.1 percent for the nation during the same period.

The annual rate for Santa Barbara County has steadily increased from 2008 at 5.4 percent, 2009 at 8.4 percent, 2010 at 9.4 percent, 2011 at 8.9 percent and 2012 showing a drop at 8 percent.  If projections hold true then 2012 and on should show steady decreases with 2013 dropping to 7.2 and eventually to 5 percent by 2016.

Industry sectors in Santa Barbara gained 3, 200 jobs for the month of April. Leisure and hospitality led the way adding 600 positions this month; construction was second with 200; third was mining and logging with 100 jobs. Other industries such as manufacturing, information, professional and business services, and educational and health services experienced no change in their labor force. The two industries that saw a decrease were trade, transportation and utilities, and government (each cutting 100 jobs).

From April 2012 to April 2013, total employment in Santa Barbara County rose by 5,400 jobs or 2.9 percent. Some of the highlights included:

» Industries posting substantial gains over the year included service (up 2.9 percent or 4,300 jobs), professional and business services (up 7.7 percent or 1,900 positions), administrative, support and waste services (up 12 percent or 1,400 jobs).

» Educational and health services (up 3.7 percent or 800 jobs), health care and social assistance (up 3.7 percent or 700 positions) and leisure and hospitality (up 3.1 percent or 700 jobs).

» Job gains within government (up by 500 jobs).

» Other industries posting substantial gains over the year included mining and logging (up by 3.6 percent or 700 jobs) and construction (up by 9.1 percent or 600 positions).

» In contrast, retail trade trimmed 300 jobs and federal government 100 positions for the year.

“This is a surprising and encouraging report, indicating a slow but steady increase in all industries, beginning with housing construction in the county — especially in North and Mid-County,” Workforce Investment Board of Santa Barbara County Executive Director, Raymond McDonald said. “And where housing construction starts pick up, there may be increased buying and investing from the banking community. This cycle creates confidence in a slow economy and allows more entrepreneurship, business expansion and continual improvement overall.”

In local cities, the unemployment rate also dropped significantly. The City of Santa Maria fell below the 10 percent unemployment rate for the month of April. The cities of Lompoc at 10.8 percent and Guadalupe at 10.4 percent also improved, but are still holding the highest unemployment rates for the region.

— Raymond McDonald is executive director of the Workforce Investment Board of Santa Barbara County.