SC jobless rate rises slightly in December

Rate inches up one-tenth of a point to 8.4 percent as labor force grew

jwilkinson@thestate.comJanuary 19, 2013 

  • Job market RICHLAND COUNTY Dec. 2011: 8.4% Nov. 2012: 7.8% Dec. 2012: 8% LEXINGTON COUNTY Dec. 2011: 7.1% Nov. 2012: 6.3% Dec. 2012: 6.6% S.C. Dec. 2011: 9.6% Nov. 2012: 8.3% Dec. 2012: 8.4% SOURCE: S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce

— South Carolina’s jobless rate ticked up slightly in December as more people saw improvement in the economy and began looking for work.

The jobless rate was 8.4 percent in December, up from 8.3 percent in November, according to the latest report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. That’s still significantly lower than the 9.6 percent rate in December 2011.

The labor force — those looking for work and those who are working — grew by 8,536 to 2.15 million, the report showed, suggesting more people in December were optimistic that jobs were coming available and entered the market.

“That’s not a bad sign,” said College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner. “But it makes the unemployment rate a little weird.”

The rise stemmed four months of consecutive drops in the unemployment rate in the state. November’s 8.3 percent was the lowest since October 2008. The national unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December.

“Typically, we see a small decrease in employment in December because of seasonal declines in the leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and government sectors,” agency director Abraham Turner said. “Nonetheless, I am encouraged as the state’s overall job growth trend throughout 2012 was at a pace similar to historical levels before the recent recession.”

The state’s employment fell 5,800 to 1.87 million in December from the previous month, the first time it has declined in five months. Still the number of jobs was up 31,500 from a year earlier, the report said.

“I think it’s a pretty good year-end report,” said University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen, noting that the 31,000 jobs was twice the increase from 2010 to 2011. “So South Carolina has definitely seen steady improvement in 2012. And the growth is broader, across more industries.”

The leisure and hospitality industries shed 5,900 jobs in December due to a drop in demand for arts, entertainment and recreation, as well as accommodation and food services, the report showed.

“Myrtle Beach was the area that saw the major decline,” Von Nessen said. “But those jobs reductions are right in line with what we expect.”

Local government services and employment services demand also were down during the month causing a drop of 2,300 jobs in government and 1,700 in professional and business services, the report said.

Although overall payroll employment declined in December, several industries saw growth, including transportation and utilities with 2,400 jobs added and education and health services with 1,100.

Marion County again posted the state’s highest jobless rate – 17.2 percent, up from 15.8 percent in November. Allendale County followed at 15.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Lexington County boasted the state’s lowest jobless rate – 6.6 percent, up from 6.2 percent in November.

The jobless rate in Richland and Kershaw counties was 8 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.

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