Fairfield County’s unemployment jumped nearly 3 percentage points in August because of the shutdown of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant construction project near Jenkinsville.
The jobless rate soared from 6.8 percent in July to 8.9 percent in August, according to a report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. SCE&G and Santee Cooper ended construction of the two reactors on July 31.
The hike moved the rural county’s unemployment rate from ninth highest in South Carolina to second, behind Orangeburg County’s 9 percent.
“Obviously, the increase in unemployment in Fairfield County is due to the closure of the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project,” said Robert Bouyea, spokesman for the employment agency. “You can see in the numbers by industry that we saw a loss across the state in construction jobs. Most of that would be attributable to the V.C. Summer site.”
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Statewide, South Carolina lost 2,700 construction jobs overall from July to Augusta, helping to boost the state’s unemployment rate .1 percent to 4 percent in August.
SCE&G and its junior partner, Santee Cooper, walked away from the Summer nuclear expansion project after spending $9 billion on the effort. SCE&G customers have already paid about $2.2 billion for a project that now will not be completed.
About 5,000 people were laid off from the site, most of them construction workers. Many of them lived in Fairfield County.
Bouyea said that the numbers could have been worse.
“Most of the folks (who worked at V.C. Summer) are highly sought after employees,” he said. “Some were hired on the spot at job fairs after the closure. That’s why the unemployment rate didn’t go up higher.”
But there may be another shoe to drop. Bouyea said some of the subcontractors at the site were given 60-day severance packages that may soon run out.
“At the end of 60 days, there could be some folks who are impacted and can’t find work,” he said. “We might see more (unemployment) down the road.”