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County’s jobless rate dips to 7.7 percent

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State unemployment for December falls below national rate

By Chris Sardelli

Lancaster County marked a milestone in December as unemployment rates dipped to their lowest level in almost nine years.

Based on statistics recently released by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, the county’s unemployment rate for December 2013 was 7.7 percent, down from 8.1 percent during the previous month and from 11.6 percent in December 2012.

The county’s total labor force was estimated at 31,908 people, with an estimated 2,444 of those people unemployed. The number of unemployed dropped from 2,573 in November, though December’s numbers were a significant drop from the 3,756 unemployed people estimated in December 2012.

The 7.7 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in Lancaster County since May 2005 when the rate fell to 7.5 percent, said Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. President Keith Tunnell in a release this week.

“This is certainly good news for everyone in Lancaster County and South Carolina,” Tunnell said. “A lot of hard work has gone into recruiting new industry over the past several years and many of those companies are now here and hiring and growing. 

“Our existing industry continues to see improvement, too, with more than 10 companies last year expanding and adding employees,” he said. “I want to thank our new and existing industry for their continued growth, investment, and job creation in our community."

Tunnell said that growth includes the announcements in 2013 of more than $363 million in new investment and the creation of more than 2,300 jobs within the county. In the release, Tunnell said Lancaster County ranked fifth among the state’s 46 counties in job creation, with more than 7,500 new jobs created since 2006. 

State rate drops

Also notable, DEW reported that the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.1 percent in November to 6.6 percent in December. This is the first time since 2001 that the state's unemployment rate dropped below the national unemployment rate, which was estimated at 6.7 percent, per the DEW report. 

The state’s labor force showed a slight increase in December, with 2,153,569 people, and of those, DEW estimated the number of unemployed people at 142,371.

DEW officials reported that the state’s unemployment rate has declined two percentage points since December 2012, with the number of unemployed dropping by 43,493. 

Job gains were recorded in several fields throughout the state, including trade, transportation, utilities, leisure and hospitality, for a total of 7,100 new jobs in those fields. 

Gov. Nikki Haley commented Tuesday, Jan. 28, on the significant drop, which marked four continuous months of decline and was also the state’s lowest rate since June 2008. 

“Getting our unemployment rate to this nearly six year low didn’t happen overnight and didn’t happen by itself- it’s the product of Team South Carolina working together to build the kind of business environment that attracts new companies and encourages existing ones to expand,” Haley said in a release. “The fact that more South Carolinians are working today than since 2008, proves we are moving in the right direction.”

Other rates

According to DEW’s unemployment statistics, Lancaster County matched the rates of two other counties in December, Cherokee and Colleton counties, which also both dipped from an 8.1 percent unemployment rate from the previous month. 

The highest unemployment rate in December belonged to Allendale County, with 14.3 percent, up from 12.7 percent the previous month. Of a total 3,203 people in that county’s labor force, 459 were listed as unemployed, the DEW statistics said. 

Also ranked high in December were Marion and Barnwell counties, which listed 12.9 percent and 10.8 percent unemployment rates respectively. 

Allendale, Hampton and Horry counties were the only three counties in the state to mark an increase in their unemployment rates, the report said. 

The lowest unemployment in the state belonged to Lexington County, which dropped to 4.9 percent from 5.2 percent in November. 

The sharpest decrease from November to December 2013 was Calhoun County, which fell from 10 percent to 6.5 percent, a drop of 3.5 percent, the release said. 

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416