RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina's monthly unemployment rate inched up, but that isn't a reason for concern because job growth numbers continue to be strong, an economist said Monday.
The state Commerce Department said Monday that North Carolina's unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in January. That's up from 9.4 percent in December. At the same time, the labor force grew by 9,131 people in January.
Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner said North Carolina is a rapidly growing state. He said January's numbers reflect the difference between the increase in the labor force and the number of people hired.
"That's what's caused the unemployment rate to go up," said Vitner, adding that the uptick isn't a reason for concern.
In North Carolina, employers added 2,888 jobs, with the leisure and hospitality sector, and manufacturing accounting for most of the gains. The leisure and hospitality sector added 6,500 - the most in January.
But the professional and business services sector, and education and health service marked 6,243 in job losses.
The national jobless rate also increased slightly in January, from 7.8 percent in December to 7.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
North Carolina's unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in January, 2012.
Vitner said he didn't want to minimize North Carolina's unemployment rate. But a closer look reveals that the state has added 80,000 jobs in the last year.
"And the labor force has grown by a slightly larger amount than that," he said. "Virtually every industry is improving."
That includes construction, which is gaining momentum, he said.