South Carolina's jobless rate hit another all-time low in September, slipping to 3.3 percent and keeping pressure on a tightening labor pool.
The state Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday that about 2,000 workers found jobs last month while the size of the labor force contracted by a similar amount. Both factors helped nudge the jobless rate lower, from 3.4 percent in August.
The state's unemployment rate has dropped almost a full percentage point since this time last year, when unemployment sat at 4.2 percent.
Whether unemployment will continue to decline is difficult to say, said Ann Macheras, vice president for research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. But its effects are already being felt by businesses struggling to find skilled workers.
"You could continue to see that unemployment rate go down, but it's hard to get much lower," Macheras said.
Though South Carolina's jobless rate is below the national average of 3.7 percent, it's not among the lowest. Nine states reported September unemployment rates below 3 percent.
In the Southeast, Virginia has the lowest jobless rate, at 2.9 percent.
According to the latest data, the number of employed workers in South Carolina is up about 7,000 compared to September 2017, while the number of unemployed fell by almost 21,000.
The state has added 27,000 jobs over the same period, bringing the total to slightly more than 2.11 million.
The Charleston region continued to have the lowest jobless rate among the South Carolina's four biggest metro areas, at 2.8 percent.
Despite the decline in unemployment, the state lost about 14,500 jobs in September. That's the largest one-month drop since January 2009, Macheras said, but it can likely be attributed to Hurricane Florence.
Most of the decline was in the hospitality and leisure sector. It lost an unusually high 9,300 jobs in September on a seasonally adjusted basis.
"There isn't a one-month decline that even comes close to this," Macheras said.
Some of that be attributed to how the data is gathered, she said. Unemployment is measured by surveying households, while jobs are measured by surveying firms.
If an employee didn't work during the pay period including Sept. 12, when firms were surveyed, their job was not included in that count. However, if they had a job to return to after the storm, they would not have been recorded as unemployed.
But the 9,300 figure is still "staggeringly" high, Macheras said, even when compared to past storm-affected months. More data will be needed to understand what caused the drop, she said.