California's unemployment rate jumped to 9.3 percent in December, capping a tumultuous year of massive job losses and a housing slump that has struck most of the country.
The jobless rate announced Friday by the state Employment Development Department represents a jump from the 8.4 percent figure in November 2008.
Excluding farm workers, California lost 78,200 jobs in December as employers sliced payrolls to deal with the slowing economy.
California's unemployment rate hasn't been at this level since January 1994, when the state was coming out of its recession in the early part of that decade, said Stephen Levy, senior economist for the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
"California, like the nation, is in the midst of terrible and deepening recession," Levy said. "We all expect the job losses to continue and unemployment rates to go higher."
About 1.7 million Californians were looking for work last month -- up by 166,000 since November and up 653,000 since December 2007.
Some 785,200 were laid off, while 125,300 chose to leave their job. The rest were either temporarily employed or new job seekers.
The construction sector, hit hard by the housing slump and foreclosures, accounted for the most job cuts over the past year-- 92,600 positions, a 10.8 percent annual drop.
The latest job figures followed a revised loss of 73,500 payroll jobs in November.