The unemployment rate in the Colorado Springs area fell in November for a fourth consecutive month, but only because nearly 1,000 people left the job market, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The area's 9.1 percent unemployment rate in November was down from 9.2 percent in October but up from 9 percent a year earlier. Although the local jobless rate has declined from 9.7 percent in July, nearly 4,000 area residents have left the job market during the five-month period and the decline from a year earlier totals 8,800. If those 8,800 were all seeking jobs in November, the local unemployment rate would have been 12 percent; only those actively looking for work are counted among the unemployed.

While the 27,655 area residents looking for work is the fewest since September 2009, the 276,610 with jobs is the lowest monthly total in more than nine years. And the number either working or seeking jobs is the lowest in seven years.

"This is really disappointing to see a drop in employment in a month where there should be an increase in hiring for the holiday season," said Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum.

Local payrolls don't reflect a healthy job market either, declining for a sixth consecutive month from the same month a year earlier. The area reported the nation's third-largest decline in payrolls among 372 metropolitan areas during the 12-month period after Albuquerque, N.M., and Brownsville, Texas, and was among just 77 metropolitan areas with a decline.

The biggest payroll drops in the area were in construction and retailing, both down 700 jobs in the past 12 months, and professional and business services, off 600 jobs during the period. Financial services and government both added 400 jobs since November 2011, while the information technology industry added 100 jobs.

Jobless rates also fell in four of the state's six other metro areas for the same reason they did in Colorado Springs – a decline in the number of people working or seeking jobs. Boulder reported the lowest unemployment rate among the seven metro areas at 5.9 percent, while Pueblo reported the highest at 10.6 percent. The state's jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent in November from 7.9 percent in October.

Nationally, unemployment fell between October and November in all but 50 metro areas as the U.S. jobless rate declined from 7.9 percent to 7.8 percent.

The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households, while the payroll numbers come from a survey of employers. Both sets of numbers are adjusted for seasonal changes.