The city's holiday economy ho-hummed along last month, according to state employment figures released Thursday. The unemployment rate in December stayed flat at 8.8%, suggesting that an uptick in Christmas-season hiring helped offset the expected end-of-year drop in construction. Retail employment boosted the city's numbers in 2012 as both national chains like 7-Eleven and local grocers like Fairway Market expanded their footprints. November retail hiring was unusually sluggish—possibly because stores and shoppers were recovering from Superstorm Sandy. But employment in the sector picked up 3% in December compared with the year-earlier period. "There was a rather strong rebound of retail," said James Brown, an economist with the state Department of Labor. Mr. Brown described the state of the city's economy as "reasonable," noting, "More sectors are growing than declining." The gains in 2012 have been concentrated in professional services, leisure and hospitality, and health and education. "I'd prefer there to be growth in other sectors," said Mr. Brown, "but there is growth, and the unemployment rate is trending down since peaking over the summer." The rate peaked at 10% in June and July. Approximately 3.7 million New Yorkers were employed in December; the labor force is close to 4 million people. Professional services employment is well above its pre-recession average of 343,000 in 2008. Last year's average in the sector was 354,900.