The statewide jobless rate last month was 5.5 percent, up from 5.3 percent in November. The metro Seattle area’s rate was 4.6 percent, up from 4.2 percent in November.

Share story

The unemployment rate for both Washington state and the Seattle metro area climbed in December.

The statewide rate last month was 5.5 percent, up from 5.3 percent in November but down from 6.3 percent in December 2014, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted figures released Thursday by the state Employment Security Department.

The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area’s jobless rate last month was 4.6 percent, up from 4.2 percent in November and the same rate as in December 2014.

The unemployment rate in the Seattle metro area was last this high in February last year. It had dipped as low as 3.6 percent in August and September.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The number of people in the labor force — meaning those ages 16 and older who are working or actively looking for work — shrank in December in the Seattle metro area, while the number of unemployed rose to 72,200.

The shrinkage in the Seattle area labor force “was kind of curious,” said Paul Turek, state labor economist with the Employment Security Department. “It’s certainly a big difference from what we’re seeing at the state level.”

Turek speculated that part of the reason for the shrinkage might be a negative impact from Canada’s recession, or simply “volatility noise, meaning the numbers don’t always conform to what we’re seeing.”

“We’ll keep an eye on it and see where things go in future months,” Turek said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate in December was 5 percent, the same as in November and down from 5.6 percent in December 2014.

Statewide, both the labor force and the number of unemployed grew. There were 193,200 unemployed statewide last month, of which 76,558 received unemployment benefits.

Across the state, a seasonally adjusted 7,200 jobs were added in December, with the transportation, warehousing and utilities, government, and information sectors leading in growth. The private sector added 5,600 jobs while the public sector added 1,600.

Sectors losing the most jobs included professional and business services; retail trade; and leisure and hospitality.

November’s preliminary estimated gain of 10,100 jobs was revised to a gain of 10,400 jobs.

Year over year, the state added 68,000 jobs on a not seasonally adjusted basis.