The slow recovery from the pandemic continues in South Carolina after the state added 4,700 jobs last month.
That was part of the description of Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Regional Economist Laura Ullrich, based in Charlotte, in her analysis of South Carolina’s official September employment report on a Friday conference call with three state media outlets, including The Sumter Item.
The state featured stronger monthly growth earlier this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor data, but the September report follows a 3,100 increase in employment in August.
For comparison, though, the state actually outperformed the nation for the month. In September, the U.S. added just 147,000 jobs. South Carolina’s 4,700 job increase accounted for 3.2% of all jobs added in September, when only about 1.5% of national employment is in the state.
Similar to August, the sluggish September across the U.S. was also at least partially due to the impact from the delta variant of the coronavirus, Ullrich added.
Four industry sectors grew in jobs in the month, and four also declined, according to the data. Leisure and hospitality (+3,400); private education and private health services (+2,100); trade, transportation and utilities (+1,800); and financial activities (+400) gained jobs in the state. Manufacturing (-1,600); professional and business services (-1,500); government (-700); and construction (-300) fell during the month.
WHAT ABOUT COMPARISONS TO PRE-PANDEMIC?
The state is still down 48,900 jobs since pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. Ullrich said because South Carolina is a growing state, expectations should be that it get back to pre-pandemic levels.
"Because for all the people we are gaining, other places are losing people," she said. "So, I do think South Carolina and North Carolina — I cover both states — are both poised for strong employment growth going forward. But I don’t think the answer is as clear at the national level today.”
Job recovery in the state is slow, and “it’s going to take some time,” she added.
“We may kind of crawl our way back, but as long as we are still going up, that is clearly a positive thing," she said.
Another positive, Ullrich added, is the state continues to outpace the U.S. in its recovery. Overall, South Carolina is down 2.23% in total employment since February 2020, whereas the U.S. is down 3.3%. North Carolina is also outpacing the nation, down 2.25%.
UNEMPLOYMENT SURVEY REPORT
In a separate survey report for September released Friday, South Carolina’s unemployment rate decreased from 4.2% to 4.1% in September.
Locally, Sumter County’s unemployment rate was 3.8%. Clarendon County stood at 3.9%, and Lee had the highest area jobless rate at 4.8%. Marlboro County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 7.1%, followed by Bamberg and Orangeburg counties, which were both at 6.7%.
The monthly national rate decreased from 5.2% to 4.8%. A broad measure of U.S. unemployment, to include individuals marginally attached to the labor force plus people working only part-time for economic reasons, was 8.1%. At peak employment in February 2020, it was 7.4%.
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