People drink and dine outdoors behind a plastic barrier at a bar and restaurant in Pacific Beach. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The unemployment rate in San Diego County decreased to 7.2% in February, down from a revised 8% in January but well above the year-ago, pre-pandemic rate of 3.2%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The job gains were particularly strong in the restaurant industry, which had been hard hit while San Diego County was in the purple tier of infection.

“The nearly 13,000 jump in leisure and hospitality positions was an especially welcome relief as this sector has seen so many of its doors closed,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University.

Between January and February, nonfarm employment in San Diego County increased by 31,900, from 1,351,600 to 1,383,500, and agricultural employment increased by 500, from 8,400 to 8,900.

Leisure and hospitality led all month-over increases with 12,800 jobs added. Of those, 97% were in accommodation and food services — up 12,400 jobs. Arts, entertainment and recreation added 400 jobs.