Sonoma Housing Bubble

Pulling the cork out of Sonoma's bubbly housing foolishness

Friday, February 24, 2006

Take This Job and Shove it? (Sonoma County's Job Lost & Found)

In studies of the Sonoma County economy, the constant is change:

"The job base of the North Bay – and Sonoma County in particular – is undergoing profound change. . . . The big employers the region has depended upon to provide good-paying jobs for the last half-a-century are shrinking and restructuring as they face enormous global competitive pressures. And the region is not generating enough new jobs, or the kinds of new jobs, to replace those leaving."

Brad Bollinger
North Bay Business Journal, September 19, 2005

"The majority of new jobs pay less than the average wage. . . . The gap between high- and low-paying jobs is widening. In Sonoma County, the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in August, essentially unchanged for three years as companies continued to be cautious about hiring or chose to expand outside the county."

The Press Democrat, September 25, 2005

In regard to wages, Sonoma County mirrors larger economies:

"Similar conditions exist throughout much of California and the nation. Economic growth, while robust in terms of both the nation’s gross domestic product and companies’ pre-tax earnings, has barely shown up in the U.S. job market. About 2 percent fewer working age adults are working today than in the first half of 2001. The soft labor market does not give a lot of incentives to employers to raise wages to attract workers."

Arindrajit Dube
Center for Labor Research and Education, UC Berkeley
The Press Democrat, September 25, 2005

"The county has gained jobs in some categories, but….

• The number of jobs in the county is still 3.3 percent, or 6,500 jobs, below 2001.

• In Sonoma County, wages are down 2.4 percent from 2003, adjusted for inflation, for the
lowest fourth of workers.

• Wages are up 6.2 percent for workers in the top fourth of the wage scale.

• Fifty-eight percent of new jobs between 2003 and 2005 paid below the average wage.

• …jobs and wages have languished so long that no one is sure when a recovery will come,
and trouble spots on the horizon are causing economists to caution the job market may not improve soon."

The Press Democrat, September 25, 2005

"It is estimated that 60 per cent of the new jobs added between 2001 and 2003 were lower-paying service jobs that are below the county’s average wage of $40,000 per year. That shift in the employment picture, like the global shift, also raises questions about the direction of work-force development and education."

Carl Wong, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools, writing in The Press Democrat

Sonoma County’s labor force was approximately 261,400 in 2005

Sonoma County's Top Job Gains, 2003-2005

Laborers/freight, stock +890
Wage: $22,400

Bookkeeping, accounting +540
Wage: $37,500

Recreation workers +460
Wage: $22,900

Self-enrichment teachers +450
Wage: $31,400

Elementary school teacher +430
Wage: $56,100

Counter attendants/coffee shop +420
Wage: $17,300

Farmworkers +420
Wage: $20,600

Food prep. workers +400
Wage: $20,100

Wait persons +320
Wage: $17,300

Executive secretaries +310
Wage: $41,900

Average wage: $28,750

Top Job Losses

Secretaries -960 Wage: $32,700
(except legal, medical, executive)

Carpenters -600
Wage: $49,000

Personal/Home care aids -590
Wage: $23,200

Cashiers -520
Wage: $22,700

Sales related workers -470
Wage: $35,700

Dental assistants -370
Wage: $43,500

Managers -360
Wage: $92,300

General/ops mngrs. -340
Wage: $104,500

Medical Assistants -320
Wage: $30,600

Admin Svcs. Mngrs. -300
Wage: $61,200

Average wage: $51,411

The Press Democrat, September 25, 2005

If we look at the jobs listed in the previous chart that show gains in employment and compare their annual incomes to the cost of living in Sonoma County, we find problems for many workers in the lower paying—but growing--occupations.

Sonoma County’s Top Employers (2004)

Santa Rosa Junior College 3, 115
Agilent Technologies 2,500
St. Joseph Health System 2, 370
Sonoma State University 1,799
Kaiser Permanente 1,423
Optical Coating Lab 1,300
JDS Uniphase 1,200
Safeway 1,200
Medtronic 1,200
Kendall-Jackson Wine 900
Sutter Medical Center 859
State Farm Insurance 846
Albertsons 770
Target 700
Amy’s Kitchen 650
Hansel Dealer Group 650
AFC 600
SBC Communications 600
Longs Drug Stores 585
Cisco Systems 550
Home Depot 550

Sonoma County Economic Development Board
Economy. Com, 2005

Leading Industries


Full-service Restaurants

Beverage manufacturing

Grocery Stores

Construction of buildings

Traveler accommodations

Building finishing contractors

Navig., Meas., Electromech., Inst. Manuf.

Medical Equipment Manufacturing

Other Recreation

Private household workers

Building material dealers

Automobile dealers

Automotive repair

High tech total

High tech as % of total employment

Sonoma County Economic Development Board
Economy. Com, 2004

Changing Faces of Sonoma County


The increasing population of Hispanics highlights the alterations in Sonoma County’s demographics: The county’s 92,000 Hispanics now comprise 19.4 percent of the population.

Median age 24.4
Ave. household size 4.23
Median household income $46,580
% adults 25+ without high school diploma 52.9%

Median age 41.7
Ave. household size 2.38
Median household income $54,492

• From 2001 to 2005, the number of 30- to 39-year-olds in the County dropped by nearly
13 percent (includes all races, with whites showing the greatest loss in numbers at 23 percent)

• Census trends show that 24- to 29-year-olds are also leaving • Latinos, who overall show steady population growth, are also leaving (The loss of
Latinos in the 30 – 39 age group is offset by an overall high birth rate)

• In Sonoma County kindergartens, 33% of the students are learning English as a second

• By 2020, in Sonoma County, the population 40 – 59 will decline 6.5%; population 60 –
79 will increase 96.7%; population 80+ will increase 54.1%

Sonoma County Area Housing Opportunity
(liberated from Marinite over at the fabulous Marin Bubble site)


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