RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — More people entered North Carolina’s labor force and were hired in June compared to the month before, according to state officials who announced the unemployment rate fell for the ninth consecutive month.

The number of people working in June grew by 12,600 compared to May, to 4.77 million workers overall, while the overall labor force — meaning those actively seeking work — increased by nearly 4,200 to just over 5 million, according figures released by the state Commerce Department. Figures in May had showed a decline in the number of people actively seeking work.

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The department said North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6% in June, compared to 4.8% in May — continuing a streak of declining rates starting in October.

The number of unemployed workers in the state was below 232,000, a level still above pre-pandemic levels in early 2020. But it sits well below levels at the height of COVID-19 commerce restrictions that contributed to the unemployment rate soaring to 13.5% in April and May 2020.

Data released Friday by the department showed government and leisure and hospitality services with the largest month-over-month employment growth.