Unemployment rates held almost steady in the Washington area between April and May largely as a result of people obtaining jobs as census takers -- while jobless rates rose in many other parts of the nation, according to D.C. government figures.

Joblessness in the city for May was 6.1 percent, compared to 6.0 percent in April, according to an employment services department report released yesterday. In the Washington area as a whole, unemployment was reported at 3.9 percent, compared 3.8 percent in April.

Figures show the largest job gains here between April and May were in the federal government -- 3,100 jobs in the city and 5,700 in the entire area. Most of these were census taker jobs.

By contrast, national employment jumped from 7 to 7.8 percent in the same period.

In May, a year ago, D.C. unemployment stood at 7.3 percent, well above this year's level. In the Washington Area as a whole, unemployment was 4.2 percent last May, also above this year's rate.

Employment Services figures show that this year, the city had 4,900 more jobs than last year, and 1,900 more in May than in April this year.

Officials say the greater number of persons with jobs in May is due partly to college graduates entering the job market.

According to government statistics, the largest gains in jobs between April and May were in the federal government -- 3,100 jobs in D.C. and 5,700 jobs in the area as a whole. These jobs primarily were census takers.