South Carolinas jobless rate spiked for the second straight month in June as schools dropped workers for the summer, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday.
The states unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent in June from 9.1 percent in May another signal that the economic slowdown has gained a foothold in South Carolina.
Until May, the rate had fallen regularly since last fall and dipped below 9 percent this spring for the first time in months.
The rise wasnt altogether unexpected, however. Economists had been predicting a choppy summer of recovery at least since last fall when promising signs began showing up in the economy.
One bright spot was that the state added 1,800 jobs in June.
Its certainly not a good jobs report, but its not surprising because it does show that South Carolina is getting better, said USC economist Joey Von Nessen. But were still growing very slowly and the economy is very sluggish and I think this (report) is further evidence of that.
For instance, while the state is seeing some seasonal jobs gains, Von Nessen said, those gains are far below what the state historically would expect, he said. Tourism employers such as hotels and restaurants who historically have hired a dozen seasonal workers, this year are hiring only three or four, Von Nessen said.
Still, leisure and hospitality led the way in jobs gains in the June report, adding 3,700 jobs, mainly in the tourist destination cities of Charleston and Myrtle Beach. A mix of weaker demand and cautious hirers held down stronger numbers.
It all comes down to demand, really. I think the demand just hasnt been quite as strong as anticipated earlier in the year, Von Nessen said.
South Carolinas current rate is more than a full percentage point below the June 2011 rate of 10.5 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent in June.
While South Carolinas unemployment rate edged up from May to June, much progress has been made since last year as there were more than 22,000 jobs added, Abraham J. Turner, executive director of employment department, said in a statement. Businesses continue to choose our great state as a place to locate or expand.
The number of unemployed people in the state rose by 6,618 to 202,918 in June, while the number of those with jobs sank by 9,391 to 1.95 million. The labor force dipped by 2,773 people to 2.15 million.
Most sectors in the state added jobs in June. But government lost 4,900 jobs, and education and health services dropped 1,500.
The rise in South Carolinas unemployment rate is likely tied to recent weakness in Europe, said Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo chief economist in Charlotte. Exports to Europe are more important to South Carolina than in most other states and the recession there has caused businesses to reduce output and employment.
The influx of high school and college students into the S.C. summer work force also may account for part of the increase in the unemployment rate, Vitner said, noting the jobless rate for younger workers is much higher than for the economy as a whole.
We remain optimistic about South Carolinas economy, Vitner said. We continue to see a steady stream of capital projects being announced.
In Charleston, where the June jobless rate jumped significantly from 7.9 percent in May to 8.5 percent, some leaders spoke out.
These unemployment numbers are troubling and unacceptable for the Charleston area and the state of South Carolina as a whole, said Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, in a released statement.
As the nations unemployment rate continues to drop or hold steady, South Carolinas rate is going in the wrong direction and at an alarmingly fast rate. Perhaps Gov. Haley should stop her international travels and simply attending every press opportunity she can find so she can actually put real time and work into creating jobs in South Carolina.
Stavrinakis, who is said to be considering a run for governor in 2014, said the last place potential businesses want to relocate to is a state led by a governor who is only interested in being a celebrity, cutting education, and refusing to invest in infrastructure.
Stavrinakis called on Haley to present the General Assembly a comprehensive jobs plan, or to read the one he has written.
During a Friday news conference about accelerating GED programs in the state, Haley, in answer to reporters questions about the jobs report and other topics, said she saw the increasing jobless rate as a personal directive to bring more new jobs to the state.
Of course it is disappointing to see that unemployment number go up, she said. But what it tells me is I need to work harder.