Raleigh, N.C. — With less than a month before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the unemployment picture in North Carolina worsened in July with the jobless rate increasing to 9.6 percent – the state's first uptick in a year.
The unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.4 percent for the previous three months. The July rate is the highest since 9.7 percent in March. It is down from 10.7 percent a year ago.
However, with the state set to be showcased on a national stage, Republicans are ready to hand President Barack Obama the blame for rising unemployment.
"I can't speak for other states, but here in North Carolina, I do think it's going to definitely hurt the president and help Romney," Tom Fetzer, the former chairman of the state Republican Party, said.
North Carolina currently has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country and has stayed well above the national average through 2012.
In July the state gained 16,000 private sector jobs while losing 14,200 public sector jobs.
"If you look at what happened in that budget, (the Republicans') policies caused that uptick," said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton of the Republican lawmakers' deep spending cuts.
While both sides are pointing fingers, William Peace University political science professor David McLennan thinks one side has the advantage.
"Presidents get too much credit and too much blame. This is a case where the president will get most of the blame," McLennan said.
He also said unemployment will be featured prominently at the convention as a big-ticket issue.
"Not only are people around the country going to see North Carolina up close and personal, they're going to hear the Republican feedback as being, 'Look, North Carolina is one of the worst states for unemployment. What's the president done there?'"
State-wide the number of people unemployed grew by just more than 5,000 at 444,694 from June.
Data from the Labor and Economic Analysis Division at the North Carolina Department of Commerce released Friday reported that seasonally adjusted non-farm employment did grow by 1,800 jobs to 3.96 million. The biggest amount of hiring came in the leisure and hospitality services sector, which added 5,900 jobs.