SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — California’s unemployment rate fell below 11 percent in January for the first time in nearly three years.

The state Employment Development Department reported on Friday a jobless rate of 10.9 percent, down three-tenths of a percentage point drop from December’s adjusted rate of 11.2 percent.

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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.

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Officials said the news signals a continued gradual improvement in the state’s economy.

The state’s jobless rate remains above the national rate of 8.3 percent for both January and February.

Nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 5,200 in January from adjusted December figures.

The state has added 322,400 nonfarm jobs since the recovery began in September 2009.

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