More and more seek fewer positions
South Carolina's jobless rate last month tied an all-time high, rising to 12.1 percent as more people are having a hard time finding work in a recession that began two years ago.
The state's unemployment rate had reached 12.1 percent in June before sliding as more people stopped looking for work.
Now, more people have begun the job search again, though without success for many as construction and manufacturing continued cutbacks, said Sam McClary, labor market analyst for the S.C. Employment Security Commission.
Jobless rates are expected to keep rising even as many economists believe the recession is over. Businesses are expected to be cautious about hiring until improvements are sustained.
The state's jobless rate rose nearly a half-percentage point from September's revised reading of 11.7 percent. South Carolina continues to have the nation's fifth-highest unemployment rate. The state has shed 60,500 jobs from a year ago and nearly 95,000 since December 2007 when the recession began.
This month, President Barack Obama signed a $24 billion economic stimulus bill that included another 20 weeks of jobless benefits for S.C. workers.
Those out of work in South Carolina now are eligible for up to 99 weeks - nearly two years - of unemployment checks with the help of five separate, federally funded extensions.
The federal extensions kick in after workers have exhausted 26 weeks offered by the state. Those federal extensions are set to end Dec. 31. Workers receiving federal benefits before the end of the year would continue to get them but would not be eligible for another extension.
Last week, 71,055 South Carolinians got checks from federally funded extensions, according to employment security data. That was more than the 56,990 people still getting benefits from the state.
Jimmy Jones, the Employment Security Commission's assistant deputy executive director, believes Congress will extend the benefits: "I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that someone would drop the ball on this one."
U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., said in a statement Friday: "In the House, we have a full agenda, but extending unemployment benefits is at the top of that agenda. We are working on a jobs bill, and it's agreed there will be an extension of unemployment benefits as part of that package."
The national unemployment rate last month rose above 10 percent for the first time in 26 years. South Carolina went into double digits in January.
Still, South Carolina added nearly 1,100 jobs in October from September. The biggest increases came from temporary agencies, as well as government, with more school-related hires and retail where stores began holiday season hiring, McClary said.
The number of South Carolinians working or looking for work rose by 1,880 in October after four straight months of decline, the commission reported Friday.
However, once the numbers are seasonally adjusted, the number of jobs likely will shrink as they have every month this year, Coastal Carolina University economist Don Schunk wrote in a report issued Friday.
The unemployment rolls grew by 9,736 last month over September. The 262,956 S.C. workers unemployed in October approached the record 266,207 set in June.
Economic experts have said they don't think South Carolina will recover the jobs lost in the recession until at least 2012.
Schunk said he expects recent economic gains to slow as federal stimulus effects fade.
Problems persist, he noted:
- Statewide retail sales remain at 2005 levels.
- Excess inventory and foreclosures bog down residential and commercial real estate.
- And tight budgets hinder government employment.
"The recession may be over, but this does not mean we are on a path of sustained recovery," Schunk wrote. "As the private sector grapples with deciding what a 'new normal' for the economy may look like, we will likely see continued restraint."
South Carolina is on pace to lose 4.1 percent of its jobs this year, he said: "While the worst of the job losses are behind us, we are not yet ready to see substantial new job gains."