CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- A March uptick in Nevada's unemployment rate to 9.7 percent marked the first time in 20 months the state has logged a month-to-month increase, state officials reported Friday.
The fractional increase came after the seasonally adjusted statewide rate dipped to 9.6 percent in February, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said.
Though significantly down from 11.6 percent in March 2012, Nevada's March jobless rate was the highest in the nation. It was followed by Illinois at 9.5 percent and California and Mississippi, both at 9.4 percent. North Carolina had the fifth-highest rate, at 9.2 percent.
Nationally, the unemployment rate last month was 7.65 percent.
Nearly 133,000 people were out of work in Nevada in March, up from about 132,000 in the previous month.
Chief state economist Bill Anderson attributed the slight increase to lower-than-usual hiring in non-agricultural jobs.
Despite the bump in the unemployment rate, Anderson said Nevada's overall job outlook is improving, albeit slowly.
"Barometers of underlying trends in unemployment insurance activity are encouraging," he said. "Since job growth turned positive and strengthened since 2011, Nevada has gradually made up some of the ground lost during the recession."
The state's job market typically sees an increase of about 7,300 jobs in March from the previous month, but this year only 4,400 jobs were added. Anderson said.
Unlike the statewide rate, jobless rates in Nevada's metropolitan areas are not seasonally adjusted.
In Las Vegas, the unadjusted rate was 9.8 percent in February and March, while the Reno-Sparks area saw a slight decrease from 10.1 percent in February to 10 percent in March. Carson City decreased from 10.7 to 10.6 percent over that same period.
Statewide, construction employment decreased by 1,000 jobs in March, while mining saw a loss of 200 jobs, the report said.
The leisure and hospitality industry, a key indicator on the health of Nevada's vital tourism economy, added 2,200 jobs in March from February, and roughly 7,100 over the past year.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he was pleased with the general direction of the state's labor market but added the March increase in the jobless rate "underscores that our recovery remains fragile."