COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's jobless rate inched upward in July for the third month in a row, rising to 9.6 percent from 9.4 percent in June, state officials reported Friday.

The Department of Employment and Workforce said the increase was fueled by the growth of 4,040 newly-unemployed people in the state and a drop of 11,231 employed people.

The agency said in a release that the pattern often occurs during the middle of the year "due to the seasonal ebb and flow of employment in the education sector."

The June rate of 9.4 percent had been 0.3 percentage points higher than May's rate.

May's rate of 9.1 percent was the first time South Carolina unemployment had gone up in 10 months.

The national unemployment rate in July increased to 8.3 percent from June's 8.2 percent, the agency said.

The figures showed South Carolina and North Carolina tied at 9.6 percent with the fifth-highest rate in the nation, said agency spokeswoman Adrian Fairwell.

"The state's unemployment rate has once again mirrored the movements of the national rate. A decline in payroll employment is typical for this time of year, as educational institutions are on break for the summer," said Abraham Turner, the agency's executive director. "However, DEW remains steadfast and focused on its efforts to put South Carolinians back to work."

The agency said the state's non-farm payroll jobs fell by 22,700 from June to July this year, with the majority in the government sector with 15,300 jobs lost.

Other sectors that declined during the month were a 3,000 drop in trade, transportation and utilities. Professional and business services dropped by 1,700 while manufacturing dipped by 1,600 jobs.

Employment in the construction industry moved slightly downward with a loss of 800 jobs after four consecutive monthly increases.

Education and health services jobs declined by 600 as private educational schools and ambulatory health care services declined.

The information sector experienced the only increase, adding 200 jobs, the agency reported.

The lowest rate was registered in Lexington County at 7.3 percent jobless while Marion County listed the top rate of 17.6 percent.

Compared to a year ago, the agency said the state's non-farm employment saw an overall increase of 11,300 jobs.

Of those, professional and business services reported a gain of 5,500 jobs, mostly in temporary employment services.

The manufacturing sector also grew 4,600 from July 2011 to July 2012.

Sectors that showed a decline in employment during the past year include construction with a drop of 2,100, leisure and hospitality declined by 1,000 and financial activities with a drop of 600.