Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Mother Lode unemployment numbers have dipped slightly over the past month, possibly reflecting a shrinking workforce, labor statistics released Friday showed.

The September unemployment rate in Tuolumne County was 10.6 percent, a slightly lower rate than what the county saw the previous month at 11.2 percent and even lower than July's 11.6 percent, California Employment Development Department statistics show.

The number is also down from the same month last year, when the jobless rate was 12.3 percent, according to the state statistics.

However, the number of employed civilians in the county did drop very slightly in September over the previous month, from 22,840 to 22,690, according to preliminary figures.

According to the EDD, much of that drop can be accounted for in loss of leisure and hospitality jobs, which fell from 2,250 to 2,050. This year saw the same total civilian jobs in September over the same month last year - 22,690. However, the labor force dropped about 1.8 percent, according to the EDD.

In Calaveras County, the unemployment rate decreased slightly from 12.5 percent to 11.9 percent from August to September. However, the rate is down from the same month last year when unemployment was at 13.9 percent.

The number of people employed in Calaveras County from August to September did increase less than 1 percent from 17,060 to 17,180, and the overall workforce held steady at 19,500 over the same period.

However, the overall workforce in the county dropped 2.8 percent from September 2011, from 20,070 to 19,500. And the only field in Calaveras County that saw job gains from this time in 2011 is non-durable goods, which added 10 jobs for a total of 170.

Both counties still have higher unemployment rates than the state, which recorded a 9.7 percent jobless rate in September.

Declining population may be a factor. A recent survey by the Sonora Area Foundation found the 2012 county population was 50,530, down 2 percent from 2011 and down about 3.6 percent from 2006, when the county population was 52,398.

As the population has shrunk, it's also gotten older, losing many working-age adults, the report found.

Citing census data between 2000 and 2010, it shows the population of people aged 40 to 54 has dropped from 11,837 to 7,467, and the population of adults aged 25 to 39 years shrank from 7,069 in 2000 to 6,742 a decade later.

Contact Chris Caskey at or 588-4527.