COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's unemployment rate has improved for the fourth straight month, dropping to 9.8 percent in April, the state Department of Employment and Workforce reported Friday.

According to unadjusted figures, the state added 11,700 jobs from March, when the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent, and more than 16,000 in the past year. Seasonally adjusted numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that South Carolina lost 3,800 jobs in April compared with March and gained 13,700 jobs compared with April 2010.

All sectors showed job increases for the month except education and government, which lost a combined 1,100 jobs. From April 2010, professional and business services had the biggest gains, adding 13,200 jobs. "I am encouraged that the South Carolina employment landscape appears to have turned the corner," John Finan, executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce, said in a news release. "We know through our own employment services that the jobs are out there, and we are certainly making every effort to match good people with good jobs."

In the Charleston region, the unemployment rate ticked up to 8 percent in April from 7.9 percent in March, driven by a slightly higher jobless figure for Berkeley County.

The national jobless rate for April was 9 percent, and South Carolina's rate was the ninth-worst in the nation behind Nevada (12.5 percent), California (11.9 percent), Rhode Island (10.9 percent), Florida (10.8 percent), Mississippi (10.4 percent), Michigan (10.2 percent), Kentucky (10 percent) and Georgia (9.9 percent).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows South Carolina with one of the most improved jobless rates over the past year, with a drop of 1.5 percentage points since last April. The best was Michigan, which saw its rate drop by 2.9 percentage points over the past 12 months.

South Carolina's unemployment rate has decreased steadily from a peak of 12.5 percent in January 2010.

"We've now seen four straight months of declining unemployment with over 7,000 new jobs announced," Gov. Nikki Haley said in the work force department's release. "Every day, our team is selling South Carolina and it's an easy sell."

Marion County continued to have the highest jobless rate at 18.7 percent. Lexington County continued to have the lowest rate at 7.3 percent.