The surge of people looking for work in South Carolina is far outpacing the national average, and while many people are finding jobs, it’s also affecting the state’s jobless rate.
The Palmetto State’s unemployment level rose to 6.7 percent in March from 6.6 percent in February, state officials reported Tuesday.
The state’s labor force grew nearly seven times faster than the national average over the past year, according to Rick Kaglic, senior regional economist at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
The national labor force growth rate is 0.5 percent. In South Carolina, it’s 3.4 percent.
“The labor force (in South Carolina) has grown much, much faster than the national average,” Kaglic said.
He didn’t have a ready answer for the flood of people in South Carolina looking for work since migration data won’t be available until next year, but Kaglic is hearing more people are moving to the Upstate and the Charleston region from elsewhere. BMW anchors the Upstate. Boeing is expanding in the Lowcountry.
“It is following a trend of people migrating to warmer climates,” Kaglic said.
The state’s labor force grew by more than 7,500 to almost 2.25 million people in March while the number of unemployed people in South Carolina rose nearly 1,700 to almost 150,000, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.
The number of people working in South Carolina continued to reach historic highs last month. Just over 5,800 people found jobs in March, placing the number of people working at close to 2.1 million.
“The vast majority of people are finding work,” the state agency said in a statement.
Economists say South Carolina’s jobless numbers eventually will change course and begin declining.
“Ultimately, the unemployment rate will slow,” Kaglic said. “I expect job growth to continue.”
Local economist Stephen Slifer with NumberNomics agreed.
“No one likes to see the unemployment rate go up,” Slifer said. “I would argue that it is a healthy sign that so many people who have been out of the labor force for some period of time can find employment. That’s encouraging. At some point, you would think the rate would start declining.”
Employment numbers were a little weaker than expected for March, but Kaglic said employment growth of 2.5 percent in South Carolina continues to exceed the national average of 2.3 percent.
Sectors showing job increases in March included construction, government, education and health services.
Industries reporting losses were leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; financial activities; manufacturing; and other services.
The national jobless rate remained unchanged at 5.5 percent.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.