South Carolina’s unemployment rate plunged to 7.5 percent in October, just a month after it dropped below 8 percent for the first time in five years, a new report Friday showed.
The good news is more people are working – and looking for work – now than five years ago. But the labor force has been shrinking this year.
October also marked the closest South Carolina’s rate has come to the national unemployment rate in 11 years. The national unemployment rate in October was 7.3 percent.
“Considering the unemployment rate crossed 11 percent just three years ago, everyone in the state should be proud of the fact that we’re at 7.5 percent and rapidly gaining on the national average,” Gov. Nikki Haley said. “But the truth is we’re just getting started – and nowhere in the country will there be a bigger push to put people back to work and keep driving the unemployment number down than what will keep happening in South Carolina.”
The number of employed people in the state rose to 1,994,349 – nearly 3,000 more than in September 2008, the last time the jobless rate was as low as 7.5 percent, the report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce showed.
The number of unemployed people in October was 162,613, nearly 2,000 more than in September 2008, which means more people are now looking for jobs than they were during that period as the state was just beginning to feel the effects of the recent recession. However, the number of unemployed people – measured as those without jobs who are still looking for work – was 189,552 in October 2012, which means some people have given up looking for work.
“This is back to the past instead of back to the future,” said College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner. “It shows you how long the recovery has taken and how deep the recession has been.
“But all the signs are pointing in the right direction in both the state and the nation,” he said. “We’re getting solid gains, but what is encouraging is how broad based the gains are. It’s not one particular sector.”
Manufacturing led the state’s gains, adding 2,600 new jobs since September, while the construction and educational and health services sectors added 1,800 each.
Those gains were able to outpace seasonal losses in the tourist industry of 900 jobs in both leisure and hospitality, and business and professional services. Other services shed 1,100 jobs.
Compared to October 2012, trade, transportation and utilities jobs rose by 6,400, the business and professional services sector gained 6,300 jobs and construction jumped by 4,800.
University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen said the construction jobs in particular were refreshing and indicated people are more optimistic about the future.
“That’s both new construction and remodeling,” he said. “People are willing to spend money (on homes or upgrades) either because they have more money to spend or they are willing to spend because they are not afraid of being laid off.”
Von Nessen added that the positive report also might be a reaction to settlement of the government shutdown and easing concerns about automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts caused by last year’s debt ceiling fight.
“That strain appears to have worked itself out,” he said.
Hefner wondered if some of the big drop resulted from reporting delays related to the recent government shutdown.
“But even given the standard caveats, this is still a solid gain,” he said. “It’s very positive report.”
Unemployment dropped in every county in the state except Edgefield, Horry, Aiken and Georgetown.
Marion County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 14.1 percent. Lexington County had the lowest at 5.7 percent.
The jobless rate in the Columbia Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped to 6 percent from 6.3 percent in September. The Charleston area dropped to 6.5 percent from 6.8 percent. Greenville/Spartanburg dropped to 6 percent from 6.3 percent.