ELECTION 2014: The battle to define SC's unemployment rate

Posted by ADAM BEAM on January 28, 2014 

S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (left) and S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

— What does South Carolina's dropping unemployment rate mean? It depends on who you ask: Gov. Nikki Haley, or state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

South Carolina's unemployment rate is now below the national average for the first time since January 2001. Haley, the Republican governor, points to the fact that "over two million South Carolinians are now employed, the highest level since January 2008."

"It’s the product of Team South Carolina working together to build the kind of business environment that attracts new companies and encourages existing ones to expand," Haley said in a news release. "The fact that more South Carolinians are working today than since 2008, proves we are moving in the right direction."

But state Sheheen, the Democratic candidate for governor, said "the lower unemployment rate would mean more if it wasn't a result of thousands of workers dropping out of the workforce."

"We measure economic progress by how the people and businesses of the state are doing, not just by a number -- and South Carolinians are struggling," Sheheen said in a news release.

So who is right? They both are.

As The State's Andrew Shain reported Tuesday morning,

"The U.S. jobless rate fell to 6.7 percent in December -- the first reading under 7 percent since November 2008.

"But the percentage of Americans working or looking for work stands at a 35-year low, according to federal labor data."

More people are working, and fewer people are looking. The real question is: Which story will resonate with voters?

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