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SC's unemployment claims dropped below 200,000 for the first time since April

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US jobless claims rise to 742,000; millions to lose aid

While some companies are adding jobs, the number of South Carolina and U.S. residents who are filing new  unemployment benefit claims has risen two weeks in a two. File/AP

The number of South Carolinians trying to qualify for unemployment benefits dropped below 200,000 for the first time since April, when leaders shut down parts of the state economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The latest data released by the U.S. Department of Labor shows roughly 197,000 displaced workers continued to file claims for either state or federal assistance during the middle of October. 

Not all of them will be eligible for aid, but the "continued claims" have economists watching closely as the nation's workforce continues to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. 

The decline in jobless claims in South Carolina is likely a good sign. It suggests workers are returning to their previous employment or finding new jobs. 

The weekly reports have recently show the number of new unemployment applicants around the state has dropped considerably compared from earlier this year. That points to fewer layoffs. 

But tens of thousands of residents who started collecting benefits during the spring and summer are still relying on jobless aid.

Roughly 62,000 people continued to apply for state jobless benefits through South Carolina's unemployment trust fund as of Oct. 10.

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That number has been declining substantially in recent weeks, but many of the people leaving the state's unemployment program are transitioning over to two federal programs that provide up to an extra 23 weeks of jobless benefits. 

More than 77,000 people have made that switch, which shows how many people have been relying on the unemployment system for more than five months. 

There is also another 58,000 who are trying to claim money through another federal program that was set up to provide aid to contractors, self-employed individuals and so-called gig workers during the pandemic. 

Anyone receiving unemployment benefits in South Carolina now is receiving $326 per week or less, depending on what their income was before they were furloughed or laid off. 

DEW reported the average unemployment recipient last week was receiving roughly $227 per week. 

Since the pandemic began, DEW has disbursed more than $4.4 billion in aid to idled South Carolina workers.

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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