Montana’s unemployment rate ticked up to 4.1 percent in December, a slight increase despite strong payroll employment gains, which the Montana Department of Labor and Industry has billed as the second fastest in the nation.

The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent while that in Missoula County ended the year at 4 percent, marking a 0.2 percent increase over last year, according to state figures.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said statewide job growth remains strong.

“Montana is starting off the new year with Montana workers, businesses and communities benefiting from our strong economy and rising wages,” Bullock said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Montana added nearly 4,000 payroll jobs in the last month, making Montana the second fastest state in the nation for payroll employment growth.”

According to Tuesday's figures, payroll employment increased by 3,900 over the month of December, the strongest payroll job gains since January 2015.

Despite the growth in payroll employment, however, unemployment ticked up, as payroll jobs plus the self-employed and agricultural workers remained fairly level over the month.

Among western Montana counties, the year-end unemployment rate was 4 percent in Missoula County, 4.6 percent in Lake County, 4.9 percent in Ravalli County, 5.6 percent in Flathead County, and 7.8 percent in Sanders County.

Mineral County recorded a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, the second highest in the state behind Big Horn County's 10.8 percent.