July jobless data

Charleston County

July: 6.5%

June: 7.2%

July 2012: 7.8%

Berkeley County

July: 7%

June: 7%

July 2012: 8.3%

Dorchester County

July: 6.8%

June: 7.2%

July 2012: 7.9%

Source: S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce

Weak job growth is keeping South Carolina’s jobless rate above the national average last month, officials said Monday.

The Palmetto State’s unemployment rate edged up to 8.1 percent in July from June’s newly revised rate of 8 percent, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

Nationally, the unemployment rate declined to 7.4 percent from June’s estimate of 7.6 percent.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate for July was down 1.1 percent compared to the same month in 2012, according to the report.

Economists say the slow job growth was expected as colleges and universities have shed some payrolls during the summer vacation months.

“It should get better in August and September when they go back to school and our rate should drop off a sizable amount as a result,” College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said.

There were 174,267 unemployed South Carolinians in July and an estimated total labor force of about 2.16 million. The number of employed South Carolina residents declined by about more than 4,000 to nearly 1.99 million.

The biggest jobs gains were in professional and business services, which added 3,100 workers in July. Leisure and hospitality, a big economic engine in the Lowcountry, added 800 jobs statewide in July, officials said.

The uptick in South Carolina refelected broader trends. Unemployment rates rose in 28 states in July and fewer states added jobs, echoing national data that show the job market may have lost some momentum.

The Labor Department said Monday that unemployment rates were unchanged in 14 states and fell in eight — the fewest to show a decline since January. Hiring increased in 32 states in July compared with June, the fewest to report job gains in three months.

The jobless rate for the Lowcountry was better than the South Carolina average.

In the Charleston metropolitan region, the unemployment rate for July was 6.7, down from 7.3 percent in June and 8.0 percent in July 2012.

Charleston’s unemployment rate ranked lowest compared to all four major metro areas in South Carolina, according to the report.

Hefner said the jobs growth is a brighter spot for the Charleston region compared to other areas of the state.

“Charleston is very interesting since we have jobs generated from last year,” he said. “It’s not a whole lot at 4,000, but that’s better than nothing.”

Hefner said sluggish jobs growth is not just a local issue.

“We have job creation in South Carolina, and just like the nation, it’s not enough,” he said.

All but five of South Carolina’s 46 counties dropped unemployment rates in July.

Charleston County had the lowest rate in the tricounty area at 6.5 percent, down from 7.8 percent for the same month in 2012.

Rural Marion County in the Pee Dee region reported the highest jobless level, at 15.2 percent, while Lexington County in the Midlands had the lowest, at 6.2 percent.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.