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Albany, NY- The unemployment rate for the 52 upstate counties dropped from 8.4 percent to 6.4 percent over the past year, while Putnam and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley had among the lowest unemployment rates in New York, the state Labor Department said today.

New York's unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in December, down from 7.4 percent in November. It still lagged the national rate at 6.7 percent in December.

Still, there was progress upstate, which has long suffered from population and job losses.

Tompkins County, home to Ithaca, had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.1 percent. Nassau and Putnam counties ranked second at 4.8 percent and Rockland County ranked third at 4.9 percent.

In the 10-county downstate area, the unemployment rate fell from 8.2 percent to 6.7 percent over the past year. In metropolitan areas upstate, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 6.2 percent over the past year.

But job growth upstate has struggled.

In the 52-county upstate region, the private-sector job count grew by 0.6, over the past year, the state Labor Department announced last week.

The two areas to see a job-count decline was in the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown (-2.0 %) area and Ithaca (-0.5%). Binghamton and Elmira were flat over the past year.

In Tuesday's report, the unemployment rate fell from 8.8 percent to 6.9 percent in the Binghamton area and from 8.9 percent to 6.9 percent in the Elmira area. It went from 7.8 percent to 5.9 percent in the Poughkeepsie area and from 8 percent to 6.1 percent in the Rochester area.

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