A fresh wave of graduates looking for work helped keep South Carolina’s unemployment rate at 8 percent in May, unchanged from the previous month, state officials said Friday.
The number of unemployed statewide fell by 1,773, while the ranks of the employed edged up by almost 1,500. The slight growth made May the 11th consecutive month that employment has increased, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce said.
The biggest month-to-month job gains came in the professional and business services sector, at 3,700 jobs, a rise attributed to increased temporary hiring, as well as new jobs in the architectural and engineering industries.
Leisure and hospitality employment went up by 2,900 as the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry continued to staff up for the summer season.
Losses were reported in government and manufacturing, in addition to public schools and universities winding down employment during the summer break.
The nation’s jobless rate for May was 7.6 percent, up from 7.5 percent in April.
Economists have said jobless rates could grow in May and June because of high school and college graduates entering the labor market.
South Carolina labor officials said the May rate the closest the Palmetto State has come to mirroring the U.S. jobless figure since March 2008, when both were below 6 percent.
Nearly all of South Carolina’s 46 counties reported increased unemployment rates for May. County-level numbers aren’t adjusted seasonally, and agency data experts said those numbers likely went up because more people began looking for work.
The unemployment rate in the Charleston metro region was 6.4 percent in May, up from 5.9 percent in April, but down from 7.5 percent in May 2012, according to state figures.
College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said the latest report contained good news, noting that the year-over-year data offers a more comprehensive snapshot of the region’s labor market. The jobless rate for May 2012 was 9.3 percent.
Also, the state’s labor force, which includes workers and jobless people actively seeking employment, edged up by 1,625 compared to May 2012.
“This is good to have more people entering in the labor force,” Hefner said.
The number of jobs statewide increased by 21,600, or about 1 percent, compared to May 2012.
The Charleston region’s growth of 2,800 jobs from a year ago was less than Hefner expected, but it was still encouraging. It shows the region is still in “a recovery mode,” he said.
“That’s not a lot, but it’s better than a minus,” he said.
Rural Marion County in the Pee Dee region reported the highest jobless level of 15.2 percent, while Lexington County in the Midlands showed the lowest rate at 6.1 percent.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.