Eau Claire ended 2018 with the fourth-lowest unemployment rate out of Wisconsin’s 32 largest cities.

Bested only by Madison, Fitchburg and Sun Prairie — all located in Dane County where the jobless rate is usually lowest in the state — Eau Claire had a 2.2 percent unemployment rate in December, according to statistics released Thursday by the state Department of Workforce Development. Fitchburg, Madison and Sun Prairie all posted 1.9 percent unemployment last month.

Statewide, unemployment was 3 percent last month — a slight improvement from 3.2 percent in December 2017. Wisconsin has remained below the national unemployment rate, which was 3.9 percent last month.

“We’re still seeing moderate economic growth,” said Scott Hodek, DWD economist serving west-central Wisconsin.

In addition to jobs created by that growth is the long-term trend of positions opening up after baby boomers who had occupied them have retired.

“It’s a great market if you’re a job seeker,” Hodek said.

Eau Claire’s unemployment rate matched the 2.2 percent also seen in the city in December 2017, but several other cities — Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Janesville, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Neenah, Racine and Wausau — all set new record lows.

When rural areas near the city are added in, all of Eau Claire County had a 2.4 percent unemployment rate last month, which is the same it had a year ago. That puts Eau Claire County in the in the top 25 percent of the 72 in the state.

Figures in Chippewa and Dunn counties got a little worse when comparing last month to December 2017.

Dunn County went from 2.7 percent unemployment in December 2017 and worsened to 2.9 percent last month — putting it in about the middle of the pack of Wisconsin counties.

Chippewa County’s jobless rate of 3.5 last month — just 0.1 percent worse than a year before — landed it just above the bottom 25 percent of counties in the state.

Based on annual trends, December is usually a month when unemployment is low, Hodek noted, but it usually rises in January and February.