California's unemployment rate dipped slightly in December to 11.1 percent, its lowest rate since 2009, the state reported Friday.
The rate is two-tenths of a percentage point drop from November. Officials with the state Employment Development Department said the steady drop in the official jobless rate was a sign of gradual improvement in California's economy.
"It's pretty definitive if you look at the year over how far we've come," department spokesman Kevin Callori said. "It's definitely quite a reversal."
California's unemployment rate last fell below 11 percent in April 2009, when it was 10.9 percent.
Nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 10,700 in December, for a total gain of 240,300 jobs in 2011.
December marked the fourth consecutive month in which the employment rate has dropped, a period during which it declined a full percentage point and the state gained 112,300 payroll jobs.
"That's over four times the number we gained over the previous four months. It looks like the increase was pretty broad-based across the economy," Callori said.
December's numbers are seasonally adjusted and thus should reflect more than just a holiday season hiring bump, he said.
Job gains for all of 2011 were up 1.7 percent, compared to 0.06 percent for all of 2010 and a 5.3 percent loss in 2009, the height of the recession.
The biggest job growth in December came in construction, information, professional and business services, educational and health services, and government, with those sectors adding a combined 23,900 jobs.
Other areas, including mining and logging, manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities, leisure and hospitality reported a combined 13,200 fewer jobs in December.
Despite the apparent improvement, more than 2 million working-age Californians remain without jobs and the state remains well above the national jobless rate of 8.5 percent.
During the same month a year ago, California's unemployment rate was 12.5 percent. It had remained at or above 12 percent from August 2009 until April 2011, when it finally dipped below that level.