June drop should herald positive trend for S.C. jobless rate, officials say

South Carolina’s jobless rate for June improved with more hiring and a decline in the labor force.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped in June after rising or holding steady for several months, and it should continue to improve, a Federal Reserve Bank official said Tuesday.

“I am confident that we will see a stabilization in labor force participation in coming months and an increase in payroll employment and that will cause downward pressure on the jobless rate,” said Rick Kaglic, senior regional economist at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Last month, Kaglic called the state’s labor force numbers “overestimated” based on an inflated sampling witnessed during the first part of 2014 and 2015. He predicted the workforce figures would start to improve with June’s jobless report.

South Carolina’s labor force grew for 16 consecutive months through May before falling slightly last month by 2,300 people.

The state now has 2.26 million people in its workforce. A record 2.11 million are employed, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

Nearly 2,100 people found work in June. The increase in employment and the decrease in the labor force caused the state’s jobless rate to decline to 6.6 percent in June from 6.8 percent in May, the state employment agency reported Tuesday.

“I expect to see continued improvement in the unemployment rate,” Kaglic said. “Overall, the numbers continue to reflect an economy that is continuing to create jobs. Taken in conjunction with other indicators, that is causing an increase in demand for labor. I see nothing in the foreseeable future that would alter those dynamics.”

Several sectors in South Carolina picked up sizable job gains last month, including: leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation and utilities; construction; government; professional and business services; financial activities; and information.

Areas losing jobs in June included manufacturing, down by 200, and education and health services, off by 100.

Charleston County reported the lowest jobless rate in the state at 5.5 percent.

The Charleston metropolitan area posted the best unemployment rate among the state’s largest job centers at 5.8 percent.

The national jobless rate declined to 5.3 percent last month from 5.5 percent in May.

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