Head(60pt) hyhyhy hyyhy hy hy hy Subhead(22pt) hh hy hyh h hyhyhy y hyy hyhy hyh yhy hh yh yhh hyy hh hyy hhy S.C. jobless rate plummets to 15-year low

South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in June, a 15-year low.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate plummeted in June to a 15-year low of 5.4 percent, down from 5.6 percent in May.

That’s the lowest rate since July 2001, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

“South Carolina’s job growth has been steady and robust over the first half of the year,” averaging 2.5 percent, said Rick Kaglic, senior regional economist at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

He noted a slight decline in the construction sector across the Palmetto State, but he said “it is one of the industries performing very strongly with year over year growth of 7.4 percent.”

Kaglic also mentioned a slight weakness in manufacturing, but cited solid growth in the service sector, especially professional services.

Overall, he called the jobless report for June “another solid month for the state.”

Charleston County reported the state’s lowest jobless level at 4.6 percent, and the broader Charleston region — led by expanding industries such as Boeing, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz and a construction boom — posted the lowest unemployment rate of any metro area in the state at 4.9 percent.

“The Charleston area economy is one of the more vibrant in South Carolina,” Kaglic said. “It has been a top performer over the past couple of years.”

Berkeley County’s jobless rate stood at 5.2 percent while Dorchester County’s unemployment level came in at 5.1 percent in June.

The number of people working in South Carolina reached another historic high of nearly 2.19 million in June while the number of unemployed dropped by nearly 4,270 to 125,591.

Over the year, nearly 68,000 people have found a job, and the number of unemployed declined by about 7,250.

Since June 2015, the labor force has grown by more than 60,000 people.

While more people entering the labor market will keep the unemployment rate elevated in the short term, Kaglic said it enhances employment potential long term.

“Businesses are putting their trust in us that we can provide them with a skilled workforce as they create new jobs by expanding or opening new facilities across the state,” said Cheryl Stanton, executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce. “And as we reached a new record high for the number of people working, we can do more by filling the available jobs and getting the 126,000 unemployed working.”

Gov. Nikki Haley applauded the low jobless rate but said more needs to be done.

She said the new report “is all the motivation we need to stay focused on things like workforce training, tax relief and investments in our students so we can keep the momentum going,” she said.

Rural Bamberg County, Haley’s home base, reported the state’s highest jobless rate of 9.9 percent.

The national jobless rate increased to 4.9 percent from 4.7 percent last month.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.