S.C. jobless rate still falling
South Carolina's unemployment rate continued its descent in January, dropping for a sixth straight month to 9.3 percent, the state Department of Employment and Workforce said Tuesday.
The jobless rate fell about one-third of a point from December's revised rate of 9.6 percent, even though employers sliced 33,300 positions in January.
State officials attributed the decline mainly to nearly 8,000 people leaving the labor force and said the number of employed workers over the month remained nearly stable at about 1.95 million.
The Charleston region reported 3,800 fewer jobs in January than December, but the metro area's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.7 percent. Every sector in the state except manufacturing, natural resources and mining shed jobs in January.
The retail trade alone reported 8,300 fewer employees as merchants let temporary holiday workers go. Professional and business services lost 5,800 jobs, leisure and hospitality reported 5,000 fewer employees and government lost 4,300 workers. Construction, finances and information also snipped away jobs.
Manufacturing, the state's brightest spot in 2011, picked up 100 jobs. Natural resources and mining remained unchanged.
The number of unemployed people was estimated at 200,190, the lowest level since November 2008, when the economy began to feel the shock of the financial market collapse.
Year to year for January, the state painted a better picture, with unemployment dropping 1.3 points and the state adding nearly 30,000 jobs since the first month of 2011.
"That's a nice enough difference to say there is a real drop," College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said. "Manufacturing continues to increase, and that's a pretty good positive sign."
Jobs are out there, but people need the right training to get work, said Abraham Turner, head of the state Department of Employment and Workforce. The national jobless rate dropped to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forty-five states reported lower unemployment rates.
Twenty-eight counties across the state reported higher jobless rates, while 11 counties saw unemployment levels fall and seven remain unchanged. Marion County, in the rural Pee Dee region, had the highest jobless rate at 19.2 percent. Lexington County, in the suburbs of Columbia, reported the lowest, at 6.9 percent.