North Carolina’s unemployment rate hit 7 percent in September, the highest level in six years.

The state actually produced more jobs last month, 6,668, but those were offset by an increase of 4,043 people seeking unemployment benefits, according to the . The combination helped nudge the state’s jobless rate to 6.95 percent from 6.9 percent in August. The ESC rounded the figure up to 7 percent.

Gov. Mike Easley noted that the loss of 21,700 manufacturing jobs over the past year has contributed to the high unemployment rate. However, he noted that the “state is working very hard to recruit new industries” and that North Carolina is “almost making up for job losses in manufacturing.”

Easley noted that a significant problem for the state has been its appeal as a place to live and work.

“People are coming to North Carolina for job opportunities,” he said. “The labor force is growing faster and it’s taking time to get the jobs out there.”

Earlier this week, Easley attended the dedication of a vaccination plant pharmaceutical giant Merck is building in Durham. Merck executives hinted that the plant could be expanded.

“We will continue to be aggressive in our job recruitment until every North Carolinian who wants a job has a job,” Easley said.