The Bay Area added 17,000 jobs in April, pushing down unemployment rates to their lowest levels in nearly six years, according to a report released Friday.

"The job market in the Bay Area couldn't be stronger," said Scott Anderson, chief economist with San Francisco-based Bank of the West. "We saw some weakness last year, but what's happening so far in 2014 has reversed that."

During April, all three of the Bay Area's major urban centers showed strong job gains, with the upswing especially robust in the South Bay and San Francisco metro area, according to the state Employment Development Department.

Santa Clara County added 4,600 jobs, the San Francisco-Marin-San Mateo area gained 8,800 jobs and the East Bay added 1,800 jobs, the EDD reported.

The hiring surge has driven jobless rates steadily lower. In April, the East Bay posted an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, down from 6.8 percent rate in March; the South Bay's jobless rate dropped to 5.8 percent from 6.3 percent; and the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin area's rate fell to 4.6 percent from 5 percent in March.

California's jobless rate improved to 7.8 percent in April, down from 8.1 percent in March, marking the first time in more than five years that unemployment levels in the state have been below 8 percent, the EDD reported. Statewide, employers added 56,100 jobs in April.

"The decline in the unemployment rate is happening everywhere," said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific. "The entire state is moving back to the 2008 levels, but it's not time to celebrate yet. It would be better if we were back to the 2007 levels."

That could come soon. Jordan Levine, director of economic research with Beacon Economics, said he expects Bay Area job growth to be even stronger in the second half of the year.

"Corporate profits are high, capacity utilization is moving upward, which means more business investment," he said. "That will stimulate economic activity in the Bay Area, particularly in Santa Clara County and San Francisco."

Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, also was upbeat.

"This is going to last for a while," Levy said. "There have been reports about how the tech boom will fade. But the hiring is based on the solid needs of real tech companies."

For the Bay Area, the upswing in hiring came in several tech-related sectors, although health care and construction employers also produced plenty of new jobs.

Tech-oriented industries added 2,000 jobs in the South Bay and 3,300 in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region.

Non-tech industries such as construction added 1,000 jobs in the San Francisco area and 700 in the East Bay.

Health care employers added 1,600 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin area, 1,400 in the South Bay and 700 in the East Bay.

Despite the improvements, some Bay Area job seekers offered mixed reviews about the strength of the employment picture.

"I found something today in Web development," Shan Lafti said Friday. "I was happy to get the job," added the San Jose resident with six years of experience in her field, "but I think I was lucky. I found something very quickly."

Emily Gutierrez of Oakland said she's been looking for work as a medical assistant for a few months, but hasn't been able to land an interview yet.

"I thought it would be easier, because people and friends have been telling me the job market is getting better," Gutierrez said.

Tracie Reynoso, a Hayward resident, has been attempting to find work as an office receptionist or a clerk. But she says employers are very picky right now.

"They want people to have a college degree so they can answer the phones at the office," Reynoso said. "And they only want to offer $10 an hour. You can't live in Silicon Valley on $10 an hour."

Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.