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Businesses continue to look for qualified workers in South Carolina's upbeat economy as the unemployment rate sinks below 4 percent. File/Warren L. Wise/Staff

The number of people working in South Carolina reached an all-time high in June as the unemployment rate dipped below 4 percent.

It’s an indication of a strong economy but also reflects a continuing challenge for many businesses struggling to find qualified workers, a labor experts said.

The state's jobless rate fell from 4 percent in May to 3.8 percent last month, as 2.23 million people reported for work, according to a report released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

This was the third straight month that the number of people not working in South Carolina declined, falling to about 87,000 in June.

That presents a challenge to companies trying to recruit help, especially since they are also facing competition from companies in other states. The national jobless rate in June was 4 percent.

"Businesses are continuing to hire and employment is at record level, so the challenge remains providing employers with a workforce that meets their needs and pulling in more potential workers," said Cheryl Stanton, the employment department’s executive director.

Rick Kaglic, senior regional economist with the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, pointed out that 3,400 new jobs were created in June, and 35,000 so far this year.

"Employment numbers are a much better indicator of health than the unemployment rate," he said. "The data look pretty good for this month."

The sector with the most jobs created was leisure and hospitality, adding 4,900 workers. That’s an indication that consumers are willing to spend money in the state’s restaurants and hotels, Kaglic said.

The second strongest sector was education and health services, adding 1,500 jobs.

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The biggest job losses were in professional and business services, which includes managers and support. The sector lost 5,000 jobs in June.

He called the sector, as they provide services to other businesses, "one of the fastest-growing and important contributors to overall job growth" in most states, and he considers it "a gauge to business-to-business vitality." 

"That’s certainly one to keep your eyes on as we move forward," he said.

The construction sector lost 1,600 jobs, although it’s too early to predict how significant that is or how much is residential or commercial, he said. It’s also too early to say whether the tariffs on some materials are having any effect on the job numbers.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.