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SC unemployment is at an all-time low

Construction crews work at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant in Fairfield County.
Construction crews work at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant in Fairfield County. tdominick@thestate.com

More South Carolinians are working today than ever before, helping to push the state’s unemployment rate below 5 percent for the first time since April 2001, according to state employment figures released Friday.

South Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 4.9 percent in September from 5.1 percent in August. The state’s unemployment rate also dropped below the national rate for the first time since April 2014.

“I am excited to see that a record number of people are working now than at any time in our state’s history, and our unemployment rate has fallen to a level we have not experienced in the last 15 years,” said Cheryl Stanton, the department’s executive director.

Gov. Nikki Haley said in a Facebook post the report provided “real reasons to celebrate” for South Carolina.

“Thank you to our loyal workforce whose work ethic is second to none and to the many companies who have invested and expanded in our state!”

Economists, likewise, praised the report.

“Usually, there’s a good side and a bad side to these reports,” said Frank Hefner, economics professor at the College of Charleston. “There’s no way to put a negative spin on this.”

Hefner points out that not only is unemployment down statewide, but it’s also down in every county except one – Marion, which rose slightly from 8.6 percent to 8.7 from August to September.

“That’s significant, because it means businesses are expanding in many different sectors,” he said. “A state’s not vibrant if it only has two big manufacturing centers or tourism draws and nothing else.”

Charleston County had the lowest rate in the state at 4 percent, outpacing Lexington County at 4.1 percent. Richland County’s jobless rate dropped from 5.4 percent in August to 4.8 percent. Orangeburg County has the state’s highest unemployment rate at 8.9 percent, which is down from 11.3 percent in August.

Joseph Von Nessen, research economist at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, said South Carolina has benefited from growth in manufacturing, with BMW, Boeing and Volvo being the most high-profile examples.

“Manufacturing in general is shifting south” domestically, Von Nessen said. As more foreign manufacturers choose to locate in the state, the more South Carolina develops a “global presence in manufacturing internationally... You can’t overstate the power of branding.”

South Carolina’s manufacturing sector has added 4,300 jobs in seasonally adjusted numbers since September of last year, the most of any sector except for trade transportation and utilities (up 6,000), education and health services (13,500) and professional and business services (16,800).

Nationally, the unemployment rate increased from 4.9 in August to 5 percent in September.

Even with the increase in employment, the employment agency says South Carolina has 58,000 unfilled jobs and 112,018 people looking for work.

WORKING IN SC

Statewide unemployment:

September - 4.9 percent

August - 5.1 percent

September 2015 - 5.5 percent

Richland County (unemployment rate):

September - 4.8 percent

August - 5.4 percent

September 2015 - 5.4 percent

Lexington County (unemployment rate):

September - 4.1 percent

August - 4.5 percent

September 2015 - 4.7 percent

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