SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — California’s unemployment rate dipped in September to 10.2 percent, down from 10.6 percent the previous month, with the Bay Area helping lead the recovery.

The state Employment Development Department said on Friday that California added 8,500 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, showing the state’s economy was continuing its gradual improvement.

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.

“The unemployment rates between August and September throughout the Bay Area decreased more than usual,” said Ruth Kavanagh, a labor market specialist for the EDD.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Kavanagh said Marin County dropped its state-low rate from 6.3 percent to 5.8 percent over the past month, and San Francisco’s rate also dropped sharply from 7.4 percent in August to 6.9 percent in September thanks in part to new technology jobs.

Kavanagh said that while unemployment typically goes down between August and September as students give up looking for work to go back to school, this time the drop in unemployment was much greater than the number of people leaving the workforce.

“We did have the labor force declining less than usual, and in the East Bay it actually increased which is not at all usual,” she said.

Education and construction spurred job growth in the East Bay, where Kavanagh said 1,400 jobs were added, “which is much better than its average loss of 400 jobs over the last 10 years at this time of year.”

Solano County, which typically has the highest unemployment numbers in the region, saw its rate fall to 9.3 percent compared to 10 percent in August.

Half a dozen sectors grew statewide in September, including education, finance and hospitality.

The drop in California’s jobless rate follows the national trend.

Unemployment rates fell or held steady last month in nine key swing states at the center of this year’s presidential election.

Rates dropped in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina. They were unchanged in New Hampshire and Virginia.

The declines could help President Barack Obama at a critical time. With just 18 days until Election Day, polls show GOP challenger Mitt Romney gaining momentum with voters in key states.

Overall, the Labor Department says rates fell in 41 states last month, rose in six and were unchanged in three.

Two weeks ago, the government said the national unemployment rate dropped in September to 7.8 percent. It’s the lowest level since Obama’s first month in office. The government will report Nov. 2 on October employment, just four days before the election.

Friday’s state unemployment report is the last before the election.

Many key states are still facing high unemployment. The rate was 11.8 percent in Nevada and 9.6 percent in North Carolina.

Still, voters are often more influenced by the trend in unemployment than the rates themselves, according to political analysts. Nevada will likely test that theory. It has the nation’s highest unemployment rate. But it has also experienced the steepest decline in the past 12 months. The unemployment rate there was 13.6 percent a year ago.

Six of the nine swing states gained jobs last month: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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