South Carolina continues to outpace U.S. in jobs recovery from coronavirus


It was another strong jobs report for the month of November in South Carolina, and the state's recovery from the initial spread of COVID-19 in the spring has been significantly better than the U.S. overall.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Regional Economist Laura Ullrich, based in Charlotte, provided analysis of South Carolina's official November employment report from the U.S. Department of Labor on a Friday conference call with two state media outlets, including The Sumter Item.

After losing 272,700 jobs in April with the beginning of the pandemic, the Palmetto State continued the long climb back up the hill by adding 16,300 jobs in November.

The monthly tally follows adding 11,700 jobs in October and 24,800 in September, and the state has added back a total of 221,000 jobs in the seven months following the steep fall. That represents about an 81.3% increase in the timeframe, and the overall net loss is down to 51,000 jobs.

The same cannot be said for the nation overall since April. The U.S. has added back 12.3 million jobs after losing 22.2 million in April, representing a 55.4% increase.

Since November 2019, total jobs in South Carolina are down 3%, or 65,800 positions. In the same timeframe, U.S. jobs have slid 6.1%.

In South Carolina, November job growth was seen in most industry sectors with the biggest gains in trade, transportation and utilities (4,600 added), leisure and hospitality (3,800 added), professional and business services (3,800 added), private education and private health care services (2,100 added) and construction (1,500 added). Government dipped 600 jobs in the month, and financial activities fell by 200 jobs, according to the report.

In year-over-year trends since November 2019, three sectors now in the state have shown job growth. Those include construction at 3.8%, manufacturing at 0.3% and financial activities at 0.2%. No sectors nationally are in positive territory since November 2019, Ullrich said.

The recovery looks different across various industries, and winter weather affects some sectors more than others, she added. Some restaurants in the Charlotte area that tried to capitalize on outdoor dining in the fall have now decided to close down until spring, Ullrich said.

COVID-19 cases have soared with the colder temperatures and holidays, and there are many question marks about what the winter months will bring, she said.

"The vaccine is out there, and there are people getting it," Ullrich said, "but how long is it going to take until enough people have it to where we can get past this? It's still going to be several more months. So, during those months - with it also being winter - I just think we could be in store for some tough times for some of these companies."

In a separate survey report, South Carolina's unemployment rate increased from 4.2% in October to 4.4% in November, primarily due to a decrease in the labor force, an indicator that includes the number of people employed and those unemployed but seeking work. Ullrich said she doesn't know the reason for the drop. The state's unemployment rate is seventh lowest among the 50 states.

Locally, Sumter County's unemployment rate was 5%. Clarendon County stood at 4.9%, and Lee had the highest area jobless rate at 5.6%. Lee's jobless rate ranked ninth highest in the state.

The monthly national jobless rate was 6.7%. A broader measure of U.S. unemployment to include individuals marginally attached to the labor force plus people working only part time for economic reasons was 12% for the month. In November 2019, that broader rate was 6.5%.