Louisiana's unemployment rate continued to drift upward in July, amid signs of a stalling economy.

The state's jobless rate rose to 7.6 percent, from 7.5 percent in June, according to numbers released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In July 2011, Louisiana's unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.

Louisiana's jobless rate never rose as high as the nation's and fell to a post-recession low of 6.9 percent in January. Since then, joblessness has been gradually increasing.

The number of unemployed Louisianans rose to almost 158,000 from 155,000 in June. In July 2011, the state had 150,000 unemployed people.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.

Total Louisiana payrolls fell for the third straight month to 1.943 million, according to numbers adjusted to cancel out predictable seasonal fluctuations. That's 2,000 below the June level, but more than 40,000 above the level a year ago.

Louisiana's payrolls grew by the sixth highest percentage among the states over the past 12 months. However, after coming close to matching the state's pre-Hurricane Katrina payroll peak in April, the state has been slipping away from that landmark.

Among business sectors where payroll jobs fell in Louisiana were construction; professional and business services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; and government. Payrolls rose in manufacturing; financial activities; and trade, transportation and utilities.

Overall, jobless levels rose in 44 states. Nevada retained the highest jobless rate at 12 percent, and North Dakota kept the lowest at 3 percent.

The national unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent in July from 8.2 percent in June. It remained below the 9.1 percent level of July 2011.

Parish-level unemployment numbers will be released later.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job. That figure averaged 13 percent in Louisiana over the 12 months ending June 30, the most recent figures available.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 15.3 percent during the same time.