L.A. County’s unemployment rate edged back up to 4.5 percent in January from 4.4 percent in December as local employers shed holiday season workers, state figures released March 7 show.

The January unemployment rate returned to the level of last November as roughly 17,000 people joined the ranks of the unemployed, bringing the total to 231,000. The labor force also grew by 20,000 to about 5.15 million.

For the first time in nearly a year, the local unemployment rate was a notch higher than the statewide average of 4.4 percent; it was also higher than the national rate of 4.1 percent.

Contributing to the rise in the unemployment rate was a substantial, but seasonal, drop in nonfarm payroll employment. According to the state Employment Development Department figures, employers cut 77,000 workers from their payrolls in January for a new total of 4.44 million.

Leading the way was a drop of 15,000 workers in the retail sector as the holiday season ended. Among the other sectors reporting job losses: Motion picture/sound recording (down 11,500) and administrative/support services (down 10,000).

Only one sector – construction – eked out a slight gain of 400 jobs between December and January.