Unemployment rates increased in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in December, decreased in one, and was unchanged in two others according to employment figures releases by the state on Wednesday. The December statewide rate was 9.5 percent. Locally rates rose across the board with Madison County maintaining the strongest economy with a slight rise in the unemployment rate of .4 percent to 8.5 percent, followed by McDowell, which rose by .3 percent to 11 percent in December. Buncombe saw joblessness creep up to 7.2 percent for the month, from 6.9 percent in November. In the Tri-County Area Avery County saw its rate jump 1.3 percent to 12.1 percent, Mitchell’s rose 2.0 percent to 13.6 percent and in Yancey County the unemployment rate rose to 12.2 percent, an increase of 1.8 percent from November, according to figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce.