State’s jobless rate falls to 8.8% Charleston area bright spot in April

In this April 24, 2012, file photo, job seeker Alan Shull attends a job fair in Portland, Ore. South Carolina’s jobless rate edged down to 8.8 percent in April, the ninth straight monthly decline (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

South Carolina’s jobless rate edged down to 8.8 percent in April, and hovered around 7 percent in the Charleston area, according to new government figures released Friday.

Charleston area counties continued to enjoy some of the lowest rates of joblessness in the state. Dorchester and Charleston counties had the third- and fourth-best rates in the state, respectively at 6.9 and 7 percent unemployment, while Berkeley County was ninth-best at 7.5 percent.

Lexington County in the Midlands and Greenville County had the lowest rates of unemployment. Rural counties continued to suffer, with several posting unemployment rates above 15 percent. Marion County topped the list with an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent.

About 1.96 million people are working in the state and just under 200,000 people are looking for a job.

The dip in statewide unemployment, from 8.9 percent in March, was not considered statistically significant by the U.S. Department of Labor, but it did mark South Carolina’s ninth straight monthly decline in joblessness.

It’s been a long climb back. Unemployment in the Palmetto State was 5.5 percent at the start of 2008, hit 9.2 percent by year’s end, and kept on rising until it peaked at 11.8 percent a year later, at the end of 2009.

The state’s jobless rate did not fall back below 9 percent until March.

“The decline in the state’s unemployment rate coupled with the number of jobs announcements in recent months show positive signs of growth and stability for South Carolina’s economy,” said Abraham J. Turner, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Nationally, South Carolina was among two-thirds of states that recorded declining joblessness in April, and the nation’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.2 percent in March to 8.1 percent.

Leisure and hospitality jobs led the South Carolina’s job gains in April, as tourist season hiring ramped up. Taking a longer view, manufacturing jobs have accounted for nearly half the state’s employment gains over the past year.

According to the Department of Employment and Workforce, 12,606 jobs were advertised online in April in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. That’s the most of any “workforce area” tracked by the department.

Health care and technical jobs accounted for the most ads.

The biggest statewide employment gains over the past year have come in manufacturing, which increased by 3.6 percent since April 2011. The state has lost 2,600 construction jobs during that same time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report