(AP) SACRAMENTO, Calif. California's unemployment rate fell below 11 percent in January for the first time in nearly three years, signaling a continued gradual improvement in the state's economy, officials said Friday.
The jobless rate of 10.9 percent is three-tenths of a percentage point drop from December's adjusted rate of 11.2 percent, according to the state Employment Development Department.
California's unemployment rate last fell below 11 percent in April 2009, when it also was 10.9 percent.
January was the fifth consecutive month in which the employment rate has dropped. It fell a full percentage point during that period.
``It looks like we're going in the right direction,'' department spokesman Kevin Callori said. ``It just looks like, overall, things are looking better.''
Nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 5,200 in January from adjusted December figures. December job growth was revised upward, from 10,700 to a revised 38,500 based on better data from that period.
The state added 322,400 nonfarm jobs since the recovery began in September 2009. 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 at the height of the recession in 2009.
The mining and logging; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality sectors added a combined 35,400 jobs in January.
Job losses were felt in the information; financial activities; educational and health services; other services; and government sectors. They lost a combined 40,600 jobs.
Despite the dip in the unemployment rate, more than 2 million working-age Californians remain without jobs and the state remains well above the national jobless rate of 8.3 percent for both January and February.
During the same month a year ago, California's unemployment rate was 12.1 percent. It had remained at or above 12 percent from August 2009 until April 2011, when it finally dipped below that level.
California's December jobless rate of 11.2 percent was second only to Nevada's 13 percent, according to the latest numbers posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nationwide numbers had not been updated for December.