SC jobless rate hits 4-year low

rburris@thestate.comDecember 22, 2012 

  • Unemployment drops November jobless rates compared with October U.S. – 7.7%, down from 7.9% S.C. – 8.3%, down from 8.6% in October
    The Midlands Kershaw – 7.9%, unchanged from October Richland – 7.8%, up from 7.7% Lexington – 6.3%, up from 6.2%

— Unemployment in South Carolina dropped to 8.3 percent in November, its lowest level since October 2008, marking the fourth consecutive month of improvement.

The drop in unemployment – from 8.6 percent in October – came as the state added almost 10,000 jobs, tracking slow national job growth.

“That’s real improvement,” said Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo’s Charlotte-based chief economist.

The national unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November from October’s 7.9 percent.

The overall number of unemployed South Carolinians fell by 6,400 people in November, while the state’s labor force ticked up slightly to 2.1 million people.

The state has added 33,200 jobs in the last 12 months, or about 1.8 percent of its work force. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. jobs has grown by 1.4 percent.

Increased hiring in the retail sector, driven by the holiday shopping season, helped push up the trade, transportation and utilities sector by 5,500 jobs in November.

Government jobs also increased by 3,100 during the month, education and health services added 1,200 jobs, and manufacturing employment rose by 1,100.

“This economic recovery has been slow from the start, but we keep plugging along,” Vitner said. “We’ve been plugging along long enough now that there is some real improvement.”

Unemployment still is high, Vitner noted, though no longer as “atrociously high” as it has been. “It’s apparent to most people in the state that we’re making some progress.”

The state’s job gains have been fairly broad-based, Vitner noted. Homebuilding is on the upswing. Manufacturing remains a bright spot, he said, with most of the gains in durable goods, including cars and planes produced by BMW in Greer and Boeing in Charleston. “We’ve seen improvement across much of the state.”

Columbia, the seat of state government, lost 200 jobs from October to November but has added 2,100 jobs since November 2011, according to the state statistics released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Seasonal employment trends are affecting some job sectors. Construction and the state’s leisure-and-hospitality sector lost jobs in November, 700 in construction and 2,200 in tourism.

November’s jobless numbers also show that residents of many areas of the Palmetto State continue to struggle in find work.

Ten counties had unemployment rates of more than 12 percent in November. Another 11 counties had jobless rates between 10 and 12 percent.

Particularly hard hit have been counties in the Pee Dee and along Interstate 95.

Marion County again posted the state’s highest jobless rate – 15.8 percent. Allendale County followed at 15.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Lexington County boasted the state’s lowest jobless rate – 6.3 percent.

The jobless rate in Richland and Kershaw counties was 7.8 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, placing both in the dozen best-faring counties.

“We’re headed in the right direction. But we can’t stop now,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement. “We’re pleased to see our state’s unemployment at a four-year low, but we understand there is work to do for us to make sure that number continues to drop. And that’s where our focus will be in the coming year.”

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