October report: South Carolina sees uptick in job growth


Job growth picked up in South Carolina during October, according to the latest figures released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for South Carolina remained unchanged at 3.9 percent for the month. During the past five months, the state's unemployment rate has remained in the 3.9- to 4-percent range.

"I'd say, overall, it's a solid jobs report," said Joey Von Nessen, research economist at Darla Moore School of Business in Columbia. "In fact, in 2017, this month has been a break from that trend. We've seen solid growth in manufacturing and professional services."

Locally, the tri-county area continues to lag statewide employment levels.

Sumter County saw its unemployment rate remain steady at 4.8 percent, while Clarendon County's unemployment rate increased from 5.1 percent to 5.2 percent.

Lee County, however, saw its unemployment rate drop from 5.6 percent to 5.4 percent, perhaps the first sign of new industries locating in the Bishopville area.

All three counties have seen their unemployment rates drop from October 2016. Clarendon County's unemployment rate has dropped 0.7 percent in the past year, while Sumter and Lee counties' unemployment rates have dropped 0.5 percent.

Economists caution that county-level unemployment numbers are based on a small sample size and may contain a large sampling error.

"The downside is we haven't seen much growth in Columbia and the entire Midlands," Von Nessen said. "Part of that is the VC Summer plant (shutdown) and overall construction activity has been down."

Many of the manufacturing jobs have been concentrated in the Upstate, he said.

Statewide, the number of employed increased by 1,830 to 2,234,600 people, while unemployment declined by 251 to 91,091. The state's labor force increased by 1,579 to 2,325,691 people.

Since October 2016, employment has grown by 38,453, while unemployment decreased by 10,681. This has increased the labor force by 27,772.

Nationally, the unemployment rate edged down to 4.1 percent in October from 4.2 percent in September.

Since October 2016, not seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs were up 42,400 overall in South Carolina.

Industries marking strong annual gains were Professional and Business Services (+11,500); Manufacturing (+8,100); Education and Health Services (+7,400); Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+6,600); Government (+6,300); and Leisure and Hospitality (+2,400). Financial Activities (+600) and Other Services (+200) increased slightly, while Mining and Logging held steady.

Decreases occurred in the Information (-400) and Construction (-300) sectors.