The 9.8 percent unemployment rate reported by the Employment Development Department is down from 10.1 percent in October.
It marks the first time in nearly four years that the rate dropped into single digits. The last time was in January 2009, when the rate was 9.7 percent.
Leading economists had predicted that California's unemployment rate would remain in double digits through 2013.
Only Nevada and Rhode Island had jobless rates remaining in double-digits. California still lagged behind the national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in October.
California has added more than 564,000 nonfarm payroll jobs since the recovery began in 2010, the department said.
About 14.4 million Californians were working, though there was a decrease of 3,800 jobs since October.
"It's continuing the trend," said department spokesman Kevin Callori. "It's a respectable pace for growth and an expanding economy."
The month-over-month employment gain was the largest since 1990, he said, while November saw the second largest monthly drop in civilian unemployment on record.
It marked the fourth consecutive unemployment rate decrease, though there was a slight loss in civilian jobs for the first time in 16 months.
"It's probably more of an aberration than a real change in trend," Callori said of the job loss. "We seem to see a pattern of two or three months of strong job growth followed by a month of slower job growth."
The state has added more than 268,000 jobs since November 2011.
The trade, transportation and utilities sector posted the largest increase in jobs since October, with nearly 13,000. Construction, information; financial activities; and the leisure and hospitality all also added jobs.
However, educational and health services jobs dropped by 11,000 from the previous month. Manufacturing; professional and business services and government all also lost jobs.
In the last year, the recovery was led by business and professional services, which added 74,000 jobs, and the information sector, which had the biggest percentage gain, up nearly 6 percent. Construction; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; educational and health services; and leisure and hospitality all added jobs.
Mining and logging; manufacturing; other services; and government lost a collective 51,000 jobs over the last year. Government was the biggest loser, down 34,500 jobs.
Nearly 400,000 Californians face the loss of unemployment benefits next month if no deal is reached to address the so-called fiscal cliff. Unless Congress and the president take action before year's end, no more benefits can be paid.
About $40 billion in extension benefits have been paid to the long-term unemployed in California over the last 4 1/2 years, the department said. The state sent letters last month notifying the unemployed Californians about the scheduled end of the federal extension program.
Nearly 392,000 were receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits in November, down from more than 453,000 in October and more than 536,000 in November 2011. There were nearly 40,000 new claims last month, down from more than 55,500 in October and nearly 75,000 a year ago.
Business and government officials have warned that fallout from the fiscal cliff could halt California's recovery. Unless the federal government acts, Bush-era tax cuts and the end of a payroll tax holiday are set to expire, meaning smaller paychecks for workers just as the nation is struggling to recover from the Great Recession.