North Carolina's unemployment rate rose for the fifth straight month in July to 5.9 percent as nearly 12,000 fewer people held jobs, the state Commerce Department said Friday.
July saw a reversal over the past year's trend as the number of people employed fell slightly after increasing by nearly 136,000 in the past year. The number of people reporting they're jobless increased in July by 3,328 over the month to nearly 280,000. That total has declined by about 2,000 over the year.
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The nationwide unemployment rate in July was 5.3 percent and has been trending lower that North Carolina's.
The state has lost most of the improvements in the unemployment rate achieved earlier this year. The rate was as low as 5.3 percent in January. But North Carolina's joblessness indicator has inched up in recent months because a growing economy is creating jobs and drawing more previously hopeless workers back into the hunt for jobs, economists say.
North Carolina employers created more than 100,000 jobs last year and is on pace to match that total this year, said John Connaughton, an economist at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
"We're creating 100,000 jobs a year, but we seem to be adding more people to the labor force than we are creating jobs. You do the simple math on that and you'll see that the unemployment rate will go up," Connaughton said. "This is not a surprise and it's pretty much what we've been expecting at some point as the job market improved."
The depth of North Carolina's unemployment from the Great Recession was more than five years ago when the rate was 11.3 percent. The national jobless rate dropped from a peak of 10 percent nearly six years ago.
North Carolina legislators are in the process of toughening the conditions to receive unemployment insurance benefits after sharply cutting benefits two years ago. The average weekly benefit in July was $229. The proposed changes would require jobless workers to contact at least five employers a week to continue receiving benefits, up from two under current law.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio