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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose in September, state officials announced on Tuesday, as the number of additional jobs filled didn’t keep pace with people returning to the workforce as pandemic restrictions were lifted further.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 7.3% compares to 6.5% in August, the state Department of Commerce said in a news release. The national rate for September was 7.9%

The state’s workforce — composed of those working and those looking for work — grew by 83,000 people to 4.91 million, according to department data. While September saw about 38,700 more people in North Carolina employed compared to August, those declared unemployed rose by over 44,000 to almost 357,000 overall. Workforce categories covering government and leisure and hospitality services saw the biggest numerical gains in employment compared to August.

North Carolina’s rate peaked during COVID-19 orders limiting movement and commerce in the state at 12.9% in April. The September rate is still twice the pre-pandemic rate of 3.6% in February.

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