The number of Washingtonians holding jobs increased by 5,500 in November, indicating the apparent start of a moderate upward trend in employment, the D.C. Department of Labor reported yesterday.

Departmental officials noted that, for the second month in a row, the rate of unemployment decreased in the District of Columbia alone while it increased for the metropolitan Washington area as a whole, including the District. However, the area's jobless rate, a seasonally adjusted 4.6 percent, was far lower than the District rate of 8.2 percent.

A year earlier, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for the District was 9 percent, and for the entire Metropolitan area it was 4.7 percent.

Monthly figures, such as those released yesterday, do not include tabulations of the work force by race or age.

"While it is too early to predict a strong trend, it appears that we are beginning to experience a modest turnaround in which an increasing percentage of available jobs is going to District residents," Thomas A. Wilkins, director of the city Labor Department, said."We hope this trend will continue..."

Most of the 5,500 additional jobs obtained by D.C. residents were in the suburbs, Wilkins reported, indicating that most new jobholders were so-called "reverse commuters."

There were about 1,500 new jobs in the city itself -- 500 with the U.S. government, 300 with local government agencies (including the city and Metro), 500 in wholesale and retail trade and most of the balance in finance, insurance, real estate and service industries.

In keeping with a normal seasonal trend, construction jobs were down by about 200.

The total number of jobs in the District was 579,500 in November, the department said, which is included in a regional total of 1,435,200. In the suburbs, the greatest increase was about 2,800 jobs in wholesale and retail trade and 1,600 in government.