The Commerce Department said the jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent in August - up from 9.5 in July. But private employers hired 67,000 new workers, more than experts expected.
The news offered a glimmer of hope for people in North Carolina who are looking for work, but local experts say things may get worse before they get better.
"The good news is: we had some job creation. The bad news is: it's simply very small," explained NC State economist Michael Walden.
Walden says it's not enough to get everyone back in the workforce.
State employment officials say we're about a week away from learning whether North Carolina's job outlook last month will mirror the national report out Friday. They're cautiously optimistic after the state experienced a slight drop in unemployment back in July.
But the unemployment numbers may not tell the whole story. as the recession ends, Duke economist Mike Munger offers a different forecast..
"Employment has actually fallen, so there's more and more people who are discouraged workers - as they call them - and that number has actually fallen. So, if unemployment goes up and the employment goes down, we're on the verge of a double-dip recession," said Munger.
While economists may differ on the economy's outlook, they do agree on one thing:
"Although things are moving ahead, they're probably going to move ahead at a snail's pace. It'll probably be 3 to 4 years before we recover all those jobs that we lost in the recession," said Walden.
Jobs - that by some estimates - require skills at least half of the unemployed don't have.
So Walden's advice to North Carolinians ready to return to the job rolls?
"Make sure they've got the right skills for the jobs that are available. There are jobs available," he said.
Statewide numbers on employment are expected to be released on September 17.