Things could be worse in Columbia

Congrats Columbia, you're doing the best during the worst of times.

When it comes to big cities in South Carolina, Columbia continued to post the lowest jobless rate at the end of last year.

And the Columbia area's job losses - as a percentage, at least - was the smallest since the recession began in December 2007.

The Midlands seemed to be helped by gains in education/health and personal care services, including advocacy and church work, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The region also has suffered smaller job losses in construction, retail, financial services and hospitality compared with most other major cities in the state.

In December, Columbia was the only S.C. metro area to have a jobless rate in single digits.

The area's 9.8 percent showing was lower than the state average of 12.6 percent. Of course, both were all-time record highs.

The state's other large metro hubs, Charleston and Greenville, had the next smallest jobless rates at 10.2 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively.

Smaller cities fared worse, with Florence, Anderson and Sumter all posting rates of around 13 percent and 14 percent.

Tourism hot spot Myrtle Beach had the state's worst unemployment at nearly 15 percent.

As for employment, Columbia has lost 9,400 jobs since December 2007.

It's nothing to take lightly - that number roughly equals the population of Forest Acres - but Columbia-area job totals are down a state-low 2.5 percent since the recession's start.

Charleston lost 3.1 percent of its jobs over the past two years, while Florence shed 3.4 percent, and Greenville pared 3.7 percent.

Statewide employment had fallen 5.2 percent since the end of 2007, a total of more than 102,000 jobs during the downturn.

Cities doing worse than the state norm were Spartanburg, off 5.6 percent; Myrtle Beach, down 7.2 percent; and Anderson, behind 7.3 percent.

And to show how close fortunes can change, the state's biggest job loss stood just 45 miles east of Columbia.

Sumter had lost nearly 11 percent of its jobs since the recession started.