The unemployment rate in the Quad-Cities spiked during December, rising from 6.4 percent in November to 7.1 last month.

But December’s rate is a significant drop from 7.8 percent in December 2011, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and U.S. Department of Labor.

Overall, unemployment rates dropped in nine of 12 metro areas in Illinois.

“December marks another month that shows falling unemployment rates throughout our state,” employment security director Jay Rowell said. “The most pressing challenge to our economic progress is the uncertainty tied to Congress, the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff. Our economic recovery could be compromised if Congress is not seen as working together to build a solution.”

In the Quad-Cities, the last time the December rate was equal to or lower than 7.1 percent was in 2008 when it was 5.6 percent. This is the 11th consecutive month the rate has been equal to or below the year-ago level.

Locally, non-farm employment decreased from its year-ago level by 1,100 jobs. The two largest drops occurred in construction, 700 jobs, and retail trade, down 600 from a year ago.

Not seasonally adjusted data compares the current month to the same month of the previous year. The December 2012 not seasonally adjusted Illinois rate was 8.6 percent and 12.3 percent at its peak in this economic cycle in January 2010. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in December and 10.6 percent in January 2010 at its peak.

The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for work and is not tied to collecting unemployment insurance benefits.