The run of monthly declines in the South Carolina unemployment rate came to a halt in May, a subdued month for the labor market, officials said Friday.

County line

Charleston County

May: 4.4%

April: 4.0%

May 2013: 6.1%

Berkeley County

May: 5.0%

April: 4.7%

May 2013: 6.6%

Dorchester County

May: 4.5%

April: 4.2%

May 2013: 6.2%

S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce

The jobless figure was 5.3 percent last month, unchanged from April but lower than the 6.3 percent U.S. average, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

The agency reported that the number of residents working or actively seeking work continues to increase. In May, the statewide labor force topped 2.1 million, up about 1,200 from April.

"This month we saw small statewide gains in both employment and in the size of the labor force," said Joey Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business. "Because both increased simultaneously and by about the same amounts, the unemployment rate itself remained unchanged."

The largest job gains were in trade, transportation, manufacturing and utilities, which combined to add 5,000 jobs. The biggest loss was in the construction industry, which shed 1,100 positions, according to the state.

Unemployment rose in all but three of the state's 46 counties.

The Charleston region's jobless rate was 4.6 percent in May, up from 4.2 percent in April, but down from 6.3 percent a year earlier. Charleston County had the lowest rate in the region at 4.4 percent, up from 4.0 percent in April.

Von Nessen attributed the uptick to more residents seeking jobs.

"Part of the reason is that recent graduates are joining the labor force, but part of it is also due to an improving economy," he said. "People who had previously dropped out of the labor force because they couldn't find work are seeing better market conditions and are getting back out and looking for work again."

Lexington County had the state's lowest unemployment at 4.2 percent, and Marion County's 9.6 percent was the state's highest.

Nationally, unemployment fell in 20 states in May, rose in 16 and was unchanged in 14.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.