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During May, North Carolina unemployment increased to 6.4 percent, slightly higher than April

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina's unemployment rate increased slightly in May as the percentage of people losing their jobs outpaced job growth.

But an economist said Friday that the numbers continue to show the state's economy is improving.

The state Commerce Department reported that North Carolina's unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in May, which was two-tenths of a percentage point up from the revised 6.2 percent rate in April.

The national unemployment rate during May was 6.3 percent.

While the state's labor force increased by nearly 19,000 people, it wasn't enough to offset the percentage of people who lost their jobs.

Despite the uptick, North Carolina's unemployment rate is still 1.9 percent lower than it was during the same month in 2013.

And overall, the figures show signs the economy is headed in the right direction, said Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, Winston-Salem State University economics professor.

"The biggest reason it's gone up has to do with the jump in people who are unemployed and thus entering the workforce," he said.

Private sector employment grew over the month by 6,100 and 79,300 over the year, the Commerce Department said.

Leisure and Hospitality Services had the largest over-the-month gain in jobs with 7,400, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, 2,300; education and health services, 1,800, and construction, 400.

Professional and business services had the largest over-the-month decrease, losing 3,400 jobs, followed by manufacturing, 2,200 jobs; government, 400 jobs, and financial activities with 200 jobs.

Since last May, professional and business services added the largest number of jobs with 27,000; followed trade, transportation and utilities, 19,700; leisure and hospitality, 12,100; education and health services, 7,500; and construction with 5,100.

"Trade is the lifeblood of our economy," Madjd-Sadjadi said. "The more trade you have going on, the more trucking, the more use of utilities...This gain is indicating strength, not just only in our state, but also around the nation."

Another positive sign: the overall increase in construction jobs.

"That could lead to additional employment opportunities," he said.

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