Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

Unemployment rose slightly in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties last month, according to figures released Friday by the California Employment Development Department.

The figure rose from 10.6 percent in September to 10.8 percent in October for Tuolumne County and from 11.8 percent to 12 percent in Calaveras County.

However, each county is still faring better than it was at the same time a year ago. Tuolumne County unemployment stood at 12.1 percent in October 2011 and in Calaveras at 13.8 percent.

The statewide rate also had a slight uptick this month, from 9.7 to 9.8 percent, still 1.5 points lower than a year ago.

In Tuolumne County, the sharpest decrease in a single sector of the economy occurred in leisure and hospitality, which shed 120 jobs from the 2,050 employed in the field in September, for a loss of 5.9 percent of that workforce.

In Calaveras County, the same industry lost 2.3 percent of its jobs, shrinking from 1,270 to 1,240.

With the anticipated opening of the Dodge Ridge Ski Area in Tuolumne County and the Bear Valley Mountain Resort just across the Calaveras-Alpine county line in Bear Valley, some Sierra snowfall could go a long way toward reversing the trend in an industry that also lost 200 jobs the month prior in Tuolumne and 30 in Calaveras.

Each ski area held a job fair in late October. Dodge Ridge spokeswoman Amber Jenquin said that operation plans to hire 75 to 80 of the 100 who attended its expo.

Bear Valley Marketing Director Rosie Sundell said that resort anticipates hiring between 200 and 300 people for the winter.

Both resorts are hoping to open up to skiers and snowboarders in December.

The federal government labor force had the steepest single-sector drop in Calaveras County, falling 7.1 percent from 140 employees to 130, the EDD report said.

Manufacturing of non-durable goods also took a 5.9 percent tumble, from 170 jobs down to 160.

Despite the unemployment rate increase, the labor force of Tuolumne County actually grew from 25,380 to 25,460 last month. It has been in steady decline otherwise, dropping from 26,010 in October 2011 as the county's population has dipped 2 percent the past year, according to a recent Sonora Area Foundation survey, and as one of California's oldest populations continues to gray.

The Calaveras County labor force continued its downward trend, from 19,940 in October 2011 to 19,500 in August 2012, then 19,470 in September and 19,390 in October.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell slightly from 7.6 to 7.5 percent, according to the EDD figures.