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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's unemployment rate has held steady at 9.4 percent for the third straight month.
The state Commerce Department released the numbers for June on Friday morning. The unemployment numbers remain higher than the national average, which was 8.2 percent in June. The state unemployment rate has declined by 1.2 percentage points since June 2011.
North Carolina's unemployment rate last month was unchanged from April and May. An additional 2,500 North Carolinians were unemployed compared to the last month, but the work force decreased, keeping the rate unchanged.
"While the overall employment picture looks like it deteriorated, when you drill down a little bit there's some good signs," said Mark Kurt, economics professor at Elon University.
The biggest news from the report, he said, is that the number of nonfarm jobs, such as retail or health services, increased by nearly 17,000 last month. The increase in government positions, more than 5,000 jobs, was also surprising, he said, because it bucks national trends.
Kurt said the unchanged unemployment rates are in line with national trends, and that the three-month streak is not unusual.
"I think when we get to summer, people just take a breath and take a look at what all is going on out there," he said.
Investors looking toward European trends, consumers hesitant about spending and businesses assessing whether to hire all factor in to the summer lull, he said.
"This is not unusual when we have the type of financially related recession we've had," Kurt said. "There was a loss of trust that needs to be built back up."
Overall, Kurt said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the report's findings.
Some of North Carolina's political leaders are gathering Friday to talk jobs in Raleigh. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, the president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, and the head of the state's community college system are discussing job creation efforts.
"Our unemployment rate has remained unchanged for three consecutive months now. This is a reminder that we need to do more to get North Carolina's unemployment rate moving in the right direction," wrote Hagan in a prepared news statement released shortly after the state's numbers were made public.
Allen Reed can be reached on Twitter at: —http://twitter.com/Allen_Reed