Published: Sep 01, 2010 7:35 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 01, 2010 4:35 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - The unemployment rate rose in nearly half of the nation's 374 largest metro areas in July, as the pace of hiring slowed from earlier this year.

The Labor Department says the jobless rate rose in 178 areas, dropped in 151 and was unchanged in 45.

Despite the weak showing, that's an improvement from July. The jobless rate rose in about three-quarters of the metro areas. But it's worse than this spring, when rates declined in more than 230 areas for three straight months.

The economy is barely growing and economists worry it won't expand fast enough to bring down the 9.5 percent national unemployment rate. On Friday, the government is expected to say that private employers added only 41,000 jobs in August, down from 71,000 the previous month.