March 17, 2014

SC jobless rate fell slightly in January

South Carolina’s unemployment dropped slightly to 6.4 percent in January from 6.6 percent the month before.

South Carolina’s unemployment dropped slightly to 6.4 percent in January from 6.6 percent the month before.

It was the eighth month in a row the S.C. jobless rate declined and the second consecutive month that the number of unemployed in the Palmetto State was below the national jobless rate, according to a report from the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

Nationally, unemployment was 6.6 percent in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Carolina’s jobless rate was 21st-highest in the nation, tied with four other states.

“South Carolina is continuing to make solid gains,” said University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen. “It’s a sign that the economy is recovering.”

The rosy statewide number was driven by a survey of individuals that showed total employment rose by 138,268 to 2,030,996 in January – the highest number in state history. A non-seasonally adjusted survey of employers, however, found the number of non-farm jobs dropped by 35,200 in January from December as holiday jobs evaporated.

The report also found that unemployment rose in nearly every county in the state, including Richland, Lexington and Kershaw, because of the way the employers survey is conducted and calculated.

Statistical anomalies aside, however, there have been 46,000 new jobs created in South Carolina since January 2013, for a growth rate of 2.5 percent, College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said.

“You can’t explain (the statistical differences) in the press,” he said. “But 2.5 percent is real growth.”

Gov. Nikki Haley was quick to capitalize on Tuesday’s good news.

The Lexington County Republican has made job creation the No. 1 priority of her administration and the eight-month string of positive reports bolsters her November re-election campaign against state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden.

“Today’s news is a real testament to the hard-working people of South Carolina and another sign that we are continuing to move in the right direction,” Haley said in a press release. “With more South Carolinians working than ever before – we are consistently proving that our state has the skilled workforce and business environment that companies here and around the world need to grow and succeed.”

Jobless rates went up in all but three of South Carolina’s 46 counties in January. Marion County had the state’s highest unemployment, at 13.6 percent. Jobless rates were lowest in Lexington County, at 5.1 percent.

College of Charleston economist Hefner said that a dip in the number of jobs is expected each year at this time. The seasonally adjusted numbers used to calculate the unemployment rate takes that into consideration.

“There’s a smoothing effect,” Hefner said, adding spring jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors have yet to kick in. “But what you want to look at is the long term. This is a positive report.”

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