COLUMBIA -- Working harder than ever these days? Get used to it.
The state's chief economic forecaster John Rainey said Thursday that South Carolinians who have jobs are working harder than ever before and that record high productivity combined with new technological advances will keep unemployment higher for longer.
In other words, if companies can get by getting more out of less -- they will.
"I think high unemployment, unfortunately, is here to stay," Rainey said after analyzing state unemployment data and revenue collections at the Board of Economic Advisors meeting.
South Carolina's monthly unemployment rate averaged 12 percent up until June, while the national rate has averaged 9.8 percent. The rate for July's unemployment in South Carolina will be released today.
Rainey said it will be 2016 before unemployment is projected to drop back down to 5 percent, and by that time the state and country might be in another recession.
Marc Knapp, a contractor who owns Charleston Site Utilities, said he won't be quick to hire more workers even after he begins turning a profit because of the uncertainty in Washington.
"I am not hiring more people until there is some certainty in the world," Knapp said.
Knapp has got three workers on the staff now who "bust their rear. Everybody is terrified." But, he said, the men on his crew recognize that they'll all sink or swim together.
"My men have told me point blank, 'If you don't make money, we don't have a job.' I think that coins it best," Knapp said.
Cheryl Smithem of Folly Beach puts it this way: "It's my job to be here and do the very best job I can do now, not the very best I could've done 10 years ago. The way it used to be is not the way it is now."
Smithem owns Strategic Marketing and Charleston PR and CBS Web Designs. She went back into business for herself in 2008, shortly after the recession officially hit.
The new normal is "work smarter, work faster, work harder," Smithem said. And just as technology has enabled businesses to rely less on staff, workers themselves can become more productive and organized by embracing the new gadgets like Gist and Google Desktop that help keep files and communications organized, Smithem said.
Knapp said his BlackBerry keeps him out of the office and helps cut down on his already 12-hour work days. Rather than sit in the office and return e-mails or make calls, he can do it on his phone.
Technology has certainly helped American workers become more productive and efficient, said Scott Huffmon, associate political science professor and director of the Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory at Winthrop University. But being able to determine how much of the hard work is due to the new gadgets and advancements in technology and how much is due to fear of losing a job would be difficult, if possible at all, he said.
"I am not sure how we would measure that," Huffmon said.
What's plain to see is that people are happy to have a job and they'll work hard to keep it, Rainey, the state's economic forecaster, said.
"The people who are doing the jobs now are going to continue to do those jobs and be glad they have those jobs," Rainey said.