South Carolina’s unemployment rate tumbled .5 percent in October to 8.6 percent, its lowest level in four years and a full percentage point lower than in August.

Local rates

COUNTY OCT. ’12 SEPT. ’12 OCT. ’11Berkeley 7.4 7.3 9.3Charleston 6.5 6.5 8.0Dorchester 6.7 6.7 8.1Charleston metro 6.7 6.8 8.3South Carolina 8.6 9.1 10.0

The state Department of Employment and Workforce reported Tuesday that the number of people unemployed decreased from September to October by about 11,000, while the number of those with jobs climbed by about 15,000.

Combined with the state’s labor force, which witnessed a modest increase of 3,891 people to about 2.14 million, the numbers lined up to bring down the state’s jobless rate ahead of the holiday hiring season.

While state jobs director Abraham J. Turner welcomed the second consecutive monthly decline, he noted more must be done to lower the jobless rate further.

“While this is certainly welcome news, DEW will continue to work diligently with businesses as it remains steadfast and focused on its efforts to put South Carolinians back to work,” he said.

Nationally, the rate rose slightly to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September as more people re-entered the labor force.

Government added the most jobs in October in South Carolina, with 5,100 more than the previous month. Most of those were in education.

Trade, transportation and utilities added 1,900 jobs while financial services tacked on another 1,300. Education and health services put 1,200 others to work while construction added 900 jobs.

The state jobs department attributed the increases to a growth in trade ahead of the holidays and more demand for private educational and specialty trade contractor services.

On the downside, the hospitality industry shed 400 jobs as the tourism season wound down and information lost 200 others with less demand in publishing and information distribution.

Mining, logging, manufacturing, and professional and business services sectors held steady during October.

Steve Slifer, a Charleston-based economist and owner of NumberNomics, said the data shows employers could be waiting to see the financial health of the country with unresolved issues such as the nation’s “financial cliff.”

“They’re in a holding pattern and trying to clarify some of this uncertainty,” he said.

In the Charleston metro area, joblessness fell to 6.7 percent from 6.8 percent in September. Last year, the region’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent.

Charleston County’s jobless rate held steady at 6.5 percent last month as did Dorchester County’s rate of 6.7 percent. Berkeley County’s rate rose slightly to 7.4 percent from 7.3 percent in September.

Berkeley County, which has held the highest unemployment rate among the three counties in the Charleston region, showed improvement compared to the 9.3 percent jobless rate in October 2011.

Rural Allendale County reported the state’s highest unemployment rate of 16.6 percent while Lexington County in the Midlands posted the lowest rate of 6.3 percent.

Tyrone Richardson contributed to this report.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or