SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's jobless rate fell to from 10.6 to 10.2 percent in September in what may be the largest drop in 36 years, the state announced Friday.
The numbers from the Employment Development Department show the largest tumble in the monthly unemployment rate since 1976, said Kevin Callori, a spokesman for the department. Callori warned that the California figures are preliminary and could be revised next month.
The rate in September was more than a full percentage point better than the 11.7 percent unemployment rate at the same time a year ago.
California added 8,500 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, showing the state's economy was continuing its gradual improvement.
"It is a significant drop," Callori said. "It is an encouraging sign, and it is consistent with the overall trend which is increasing jobs."
Half a dozen sectors grew, including education, finance and transportation. The biggest gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 10,700 jobs.
Five sectors reported job losses, including construction and manufacturing and mining and logging.
An accompanying federal survey of households shows an increase in the number of working Californians, reversing a three month trend in which the number of employed people was falling.
The number of unemployed people fell to 1.88 million in September.
But the rosy numbers may be due in part to people giving up on active job searches. The total labor force shrunk by about 7,000 people over the past month and fell by 74,000 people from last year.
The drop in California's jobless rate follows the national trend.
The U.S. unemployment rate dropped in September to 7.8 percent, falling below 8 percent for the first time since the month President Barack Obama took office.