A combination of fewer job seekers and modest job growth helped drive down South Carolina's unemployment rate for the second straight month, but the number of out-of-work residents remains stubbornly high.
The October jobless figure fell to 10.5 percent from a revised 10.9 percent in September, according to new figures released Tuesday.
The decline marked the first time in five years the state's jobless rate went down between September and October. The number of out-of-work individuals declined by 9,611, lowering the statewide jobless count to 227,719.
The Charleston region's unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent last month from 9 percent in September.
The largest employment gains statewide were in government (up 3,500 jobs); education and health services (up 2,200); and trade, transportation and utilities (up 2,100).
Two sectors that saw decreases were the leisure and hospitality industry (down by 2,200 jobs) and natural resources and mining (down 100).
"The economy seems to be holding up surprisingly well amid all the global gloom, but the reality is that it's awfully hard to put a happy face on 10.5 percent unemployment," said Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wells Fargo in Charlotte. "The best we can say is, 'At least it's not 11 percent.' "
The U.S. unemployment rate slipped in October to 9 percent from 9.1 percent. The Palmetto State had the fifth-highest jobless figure in the country, behind Nevada, California, Michigan and Mississippi.
Large expansions announced by Continental Tire and other companies will help bring South Carolina's unemployment rate down, Vitner said. But it could be years before some of those jobs materialize.
"We're still facing a pretty tough road to recovery, particularly in the state's rural areas," he said.
The recession-ravaged construction industry showed signs of growth last month, but the building trades are still down 4,700 jobs from October 2010.
An important growth sector for South Carolina is the manufacturing industry, which added 600 jobs in October and 10,800 since a year ago.
"That's a clear, positive sign," said College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner.
Hefner agreed with Vitner that it will take time for the state's overall job market to regain its health.
" 'Fast and furious' are not words you're going to use," he said.
Vitner said he is keeping an eye on Europe, where debt-swamped nations are struggling to restructure their financial systems and pay their bills. South Carolina could be affected by a drop-off in demand for BMW automobiles, Boeing jets and other goods made in the state for buyers abroad.
"Exports are pretty important to the South Carolina economy," Vitner said. "You don't want to make too much of it, but South Carolina certainly is not going to be immune to a slowdown in the global economy."
The Associated Press and Kristy Eppley Rupon of The State contributed to this report.