RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina's unemployment rate dropped slightly in November to 9.1 percent from a month earlier as the state gained nearly 35,000 new jobs.
Economists say the numbers show the state's economy is continuing to recover after being battered by the recession.
"It's really the same thing that we've been looking at the last few months. Things are improving but not fast enough," said James Kleckley, director of business research at East Carolina University.
The state Commerce Department released figures Friday showing that the rate dropped from 9.3 percent in October.
The figures show a significant improvement from the same time one year ago, when unemployment was 10.4 percent.
The state still trails the national rate, which was 7.7 percent in November.
The largest monthly increase came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which gained 7,300 jobs. Professional and business services added 5,400 jobs, and education and health services had 4,900 more workers. All told, more than 4.3 million people are employed in North Carolina.
Since February 2010, when the state's unemployment rate reached its highest mark of 11.4 percent, North Carolina has gained about 145,000 jobs.
North Carolina's economy was hurting long before the 2008 recession, Kleckley said. The state lost tens of thousands of good-paying textile and furniture manufacturing jobs when companies shuttered factories and shifted production overseas.
"Since 2000, we really had tough times. A lot of that was jobs going overseas and, quite frankly, we haven't seen the recovery in North Carolina that a lot of other places in the nation have seen. We still haven't gotten back to where we were before. And that's a concern," Kleckley said.
Still, there were positive signs in the state Commerce Department report.
"We are starting to see a recovery in construction...A lot of the jobs that we lost during the recession were construction jobs," he said.
Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, said the state's economy is recovering. He noted that 60,000 nonfarm jobs were created in North Carolina over the last year.
"That's a solid increase. That's more than a lot of folks thought we would see earlier in the year. And the gains have been fairly broad based. If anything, hiring is broadening," he said.
He predicted that the state is looking at stronger gains in 2013.
"Our unemployment rate is still higher than the nation but we're moving in the right direction. Our population is growing faster than the U.S. is so this is going be tougher for us to bring the unemployment rate down," he said.