Rising confidence that the economy is improving swelled South Carolina’s labor force to an all-time record in October, as more people entered a growing job market.
The number of people looking for work increased 9,487 people, boosting the labor force to an all-time high of 2,192,212, according to a report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce Friday.
The surge of new resumes caused South Carolina’s jobless rate to tick up to 6.7 percent in October from 6.6 percent the previous month as more people joined the job hunt, the report showed. It is the fourth consecutive month that the workforce has increased.
“People are coming out of the woodwork,” College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said. “And we haven’t had a spike in the unemployment rate. So that means we’re creating jobs.”
The professional and business services sector has added 15,500 jobs since last October. Leisure and hospitality added 8,900. Those sectors have been the fastest growing segments of the job market since a year ago in South Carolina, joining manufacturing, which added 7,000 jobs, as the state’s bedrock employers.
The new jobs “are across the board,” University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen said. “In 2011, 2012 and 2013 they were disproportionally manufacturing. But now there is no industry that is significantly in the lead.”
“It’s the normal suspects, and that’s a good sign,” Hefner added. “It shows we’re a diversified state.”
Hefner noted, however, that many of those finding jobs are likely underemployed or taking temporary positions.
“Nationally, we’re seeing lower paying jobs than in the past,” he said.
Job growth, Von Nessen said, has hovered at about 2 percent in South Carolina, and he expects that to remain steady through next year.
“If you liked 2014, you’re going to like 2015, too,” he said.
However, one area of concern is the threat of a recession in Europe, Von Nessen said. With South Carolina leading the nation in tire exports, and with BMWs streaming over the pond from the German automaker’s Spartanburg plant, the Palmetto State is vulnerable to an economic downturn overseas.
“That could adversely affect South Carolina in 2015 because of the disproportionally high exports,” Von Nessen said.
Lexington and Saluda counties tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.1 percent in October. Richland County’s rate was 6.4 percent. And Marion County had the highest rate in the state at 11.3 percent.
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased to 5.8 percent in October from 5.9 percent in September.