RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina's unemployment dropped slightly in October from a month earlier, but an economist says the rate is still too high.
The state Commerce Department released figures Friday showing that the rate dropped to 9.3 percent from 9.6 percent in September. The figures show a significant improvement from the same time one year ago, when unemployment was 10.6 percent.
"Things are getting better, and I'm glad about that," said Edward Stringham, a professor of economics and entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University. "In the long run, it's still a very high unemployment rate."
The state still trails the national rate, which was 7.9 percent in October.
The number of people employed increased by better than 43,000 to more than 4.2 million over the month. That's up more than 95,000 in the past year. The major industry with the largest over-the-month increase was leisure and hospitality services, which gained 3,600 jobs.
Sometimes a drop in the unemployment is a false signal of improvement because people got frustrated and stopped looking for jobs, causing the rate to fall, Stringham said. "However, there are more employed now, and that may be a positive sign that things might not be as bad as we had been thinking," he said.
The unemployment typically falls rapidly after a recession, he said. "This is one where it's been very stagnant for a while," he said. "And that makes me pessimistic."
Government needs to get out of the way and let private companies hire more people, he said.
"As a practical matter, government can only create so many jobs," he said. "Ultimately, the economy needs to rely on private enterprise to create jobs. And the problem right now is government has been creating a lot of regulations and tax increases that have been making it very difficult for private enterprise to create those jobs."
In September, North Carolina had the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the state-by-state rankings for October next week.
Looking forward, another increase in the unemployment rate could be on the horizon. North Carolina was among the six states with the highest increase in people seeking unemployment benefits.
While some states blamed the increase on Superstorm Sandy, North Carolina said the additional 1,725 applications were due to layoffs in the metal, textile, machinery and restaurant industries.
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc