At least this time, the AP didn’t use the word “unexpectedly.”  Joblessness rose in 306 metropolitan areas, over 80% of all metro areas, close to double the number from November.  Only 41 showed improvement, and even those may only be temporary (h/t HA reader DogSoldier):

Unemployment rose in most cities and counties in December, signaling that companies remain reluctant to hire even as the economy recovers.

The unemployment rate rose in 306 of 372 metro areas, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The rate fell in 41 and was unchanged in 25. That’s worse than November, when the rate fell in 170 areas, rose in only 154 and was unchanged in 48. …

Joblessness topped 10 percent in 138 metro areas, up from 125 in November but below last year’s peak of 144 areas in June.

Even the good news is tempered.  Detroit and Warren, two Michigan centers of automaking, both improved in December as automakers replenish inventory sold during the Cash for Clunkers program.  Both areas still had double-digit unemployment (15.7% and 14.3%), and both may have bad times ahead, according to a Moody’s analyst once inventories peak.  In fact, this corroborates the gains shown in GDP in the fourth quarter, where over 3.3% of the 5.7% gain came from inventory management rather than actual sales.

In two days, the January unemployment figures will be announced.  Analysts expect a gain of 5,000 jobs and an uptick in unemployment to 10.1%.  Our economy has to create more than 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with population growth in the working age demographic.  While a 5,000 job gain would be better than a negative number, in real terms it still means losing ground.  The key will be to see how many people exit the job market in January.