The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in metro Albany rose to 9.7 percent in December, up five-tenths of a percentage point from 9.2 percent in November. The rate was 9.8 percent in December 2011.The rate rose because of a combination of factors - a slight increase in new layoffs represented by initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a loss of jobs, and a reduction in the labor force.There were 113 more new claims for unemployment benefits in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and administrative and support services. While the initial claims were up from November to December, they were down by 208, or 20.7 percent, from 1,006 in December 2011. The decline in claims led to an over-the-year drop in the area's jobless rate.The number of jobs declined by 400 to 59,600, from 60,000 in November. The monthly loss was mostly in trade, transportation, and public utilities, along with state government. There were also 59,600 jobs in December 2011.The labor force, those employed or actively seeking a job, declined by 187 to 73,331, down from 73,518 in November. There were 73,336 in the labor force in December 2011.Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 6.6 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 11.4 percent.Meanwhile, Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 8.6 percent in December, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 8.5 percent in November. The rate was 9.4 percent in December a year ago.Local area unemployment data are not seasonally adjusted. Georgia labor market data are available at www.dol.state.ga.usConnect with us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter @GeorgiaDOL. You can access all pages via our website at www.dol.state.ga.us.