CHARLOTTE--North Carolina's unemployment rate held steady at 9.4 percent in May, well above the national average of 8.2 percent.
Republicans were quick to pounce on the numbers.
"What's alarming is we're not dropping,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) We're staying the same."
North Carolina has the worst unemployment rate in the southeast and the fourth worst in the nation, according to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer said the trend isn't good for Democrats who hope to win the White House and the governor's mansion in November.
"Realistically they need the unemployment rate to continue to go down,” he said, “Holding steady or even increasing a little is really going to be problematic."
On a conference call sponsored by the Obama for America campaign, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said the state is still reeling from pre-recession job losses.
"We were already down before this '08-'09 recession,” she said. “So I think we've been having a harder time rebounding."
She said Washington is working on jobs legislation. But Republicans, she claimed, are standing in the way.
"It is being stalled by partisan politics that is not right nor fair to people in North Carolina or our American public."
Democrats say the economy *is* getting better; they argue it'll just take more time.
Republicans say time's up.
"We've got to make sure we have the federal policy and the state policies in place to attract new business," Burr said.
Bitzer said the unemployment rate likely will decide the presidential and gubernatorial races in North Carolina.
"If we go into September and these numbers hold, it's going to be a tough sell for both Democrats to make to the voters in North Carolina."