The rate was up just one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month but was the first time since December that California's jobless rate hit or exceeded 11 percent.
The uptick in California contrasts with the national trend. The nationwide jobless rate fell slightly in March to 8.2 percent.
Despite the increase, California's rate in March was still nearly a full percentage point better than the 11.9 percent unemployment rate a year ago.
The state reported that more than 18,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were created in March. That adds to a total gain of nearly 386,000 jobs since the recovery began in September 2009.
Leisure and hospitality led the increase in jobs, adding nearly 14,000 for the month. Industries including mining and logging, trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, educational and health services and government all saw increases. The seven categories added a combined 37,800 jobs.
But construction, manufacturing, information and other services lost a combined 19,600 jobs.
Over the past year, professional and business services had the biggest increase in jobs, adding more than 66,000. Government recorded the biggest losses, down 46,000 employees.