North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue. Photo courtesy of the State of North Carolina Office of Gov. Bev Perdue.

Editor’s note: On Aug. 19, the North Carolina Employment Security Commission released its finalized unemployment rate for July, reporting that it was 10.1 percent. Read more details about the July 2011 state unemployment figures here.

ASHEVILLE — During a speech Thursday in which she talked about how a strong public educational system is critical for ensuring a thriving economy, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said the state unemployment rate in July rose a full percentage point.

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission is scheduled to release the latest state unemployment figure Friday. In June, the state’s non-seasonally adjusted rate was 10.4 percent. Being non-seasonally adjusted means the rate didn’t reflect seasonal fluctuations. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July for the nation was 9.1 percent.

Perdue, a Democrat, shared this information during her address at the Rotary Club of Asheville’s regular lunch meeting at the Renaissance Asheville.  She will return to town this weekend for the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association at the Grove Park Inn from Aug. 19 through 21. Perdue is the chairman of the association of state chief executives.

Details about the latest state unemployment rate will be released Friday, Perdue said, but she did share that the rate was impacted by the loss of 11,000 public sector jobs.

Perdue talked about the “great record” North Carolina has had for growing jobs and how it regularly ranks highly on top lists for things like small business and retirement. With the backdrop of Standard & Poor’s recent downgrading of the federal government’s credit rating, the governor mentioned that North Carolina has maintained its AAA credit rating.

But Perdue passionately pleaded with those listening to continue to support public education in North Carolina.

“Economic development and our jobs and our success…(are) inextricably tied to the quality of education,” she said. Later, she referenced her own childhood education, saying, “I’m standing here as the governor of the great state of North Carolina because of education (I received) at the expense of the taxpayers.”

Her comments come in the midst of a battle over statewide preschool education funding. The budget passed by the General Assembly included cuts to the state’s early education program formerly known as More at Four and now known as NC Pre-K.

On Aug. 10, Perdue issued an executive order directing the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services to make sure the state’s preschool education program would be made available to any child in the state, especially at-risk children. Her order came after a superior court judge ruled that no preschool child could be denied this, in part because of North Carolina’s constitutional guarantee that “(t)he people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.”

State Republican legislative leaders have requested a clarification of the order and have expressed concerns about the impact it will have on the state’s balanced budget. On Wednesday, the state Attorney General’s office appealed the judge’s ruling on behalf of the Republican lawmakers.

“This is a discussion and battle about the heart and soul of North Carolina…partisan labels need to end,” Perdue said.

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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