Revised S.C. labor data still shows record

Cheryl Stanton of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce says more than 68,000 jobs are available in the state.

An annual federal recalculation shows fewer South Carolinians were employed and the labor force was smaller than what the state reported at the end of 2015.

Still, the revised numbers showed more people working and looking for work at year’s end than ever before, according to state officials.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics re-examines the state’s workforce figures at the beginning of each year with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce to gather a more definitive snapshot of the labor market.

The state on Friday said about 40,000 more people were added to payrolls last year, about half the number reported in year-end figures released in January.

Also, state officials reported the number of people in the labor force last year rose to a record high of 2.26 million, or about 8,200 fewer than the previous estimate.

In January, the state reported the labor force had grown by more than 55,000 people during the past year. The revision dialed back that figure to 16,900.

“The disparities are because of the re-estimation,” said Bob Bouyea of the Department of Employment and Workforce. “The monthly numbers are preliminary. At the end of the year, we go through, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the new data that has been received. Each year, the number can go up or down. This is not unusual.”

The new data include the latest unemployment claims, population changes and other measures used to generate estimates, according to the state.

Bouyea said the latest figures will be used going forward for 2015.

“These are the finalized numbers,” he said.

University of South Carolina research economist Joey Von Nessen agreed that the numbers usually change when recalibrated. Even with the declines, the state still had “a really good year” in 2015, he said.

“It’s been the best growth in economic expansion and the best year since the Great Recession,” Von Nessen said.

“We saw several firsts,” he said. “Employment growth was at its highest level, in excess of 3 percent for the first time while the national average was just over 2 percent. ... We also saw significant wage growth across the board for the first time.”

He added that the labor market has hit a tipping point with more demands for labor.

“It’s putting upward pressure on wages,” Von Nessen said.

With more income, consumer spending increased, creating demand for more retail space, he said. The strong housing rebound helped even more.

The state’s labor chief hailed the new figures as evidence of a “robust economy,” saying nearly 91,000 people found work over the past two years and “are now providing for themselves.”

Cheryl Stanton, head of the Department of Employment and Workforce, pointed to openings across the Palmetto State.

“There are still more than 68,000 jobs available across South Carolina,” Stanton said.

The state’s unemployment rate for December was 5.5 percent. For all of 2015, it averaged 5.9 percent, down from 6.4 percent in 2014, according to the new estimates.

One figure that did not change during the revision was the number of people reporting an inability to find a job. It was about 124,000 at year’s end, down about 22,350 from the previous December.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524.