S.C. unemployment down a bit September jobless falls half percent

The S.C. Employment Security Commission office on Lockwood Blvd.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s unemployment rate went down by a half of a percentage point in September, mirroring a nationwide trend of falling jobless numbers.

State unemployment fell to 9.1 percent last month, the state Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday. That’s down from August, when the figure was 9.6 percent.

Local unemployment rates all dropped.

Berkeley County, which has held the highest unemployment rate among the three counties in the Charleston region, dipped to 7.3 percent in September, down from 8.1 percent in August.

Charleston County reported 6.8 percent of its workforce without a job, down from 7.8 percent the previous month. Dorchester County’s jobless rate dropped to 6.8 percent from 7.5 in August.

Steve Slifer, a Charleston-based economist and owner of NumberNomics, said the region’s rate decrease reflect the strengthening of the broader economy, highlighted by growth in key markets like retail and home sales.

He noted that area real estate agents have been touting stronger sales and “things are reasonably robust here, which is reflected in the unemployment numbers among the counties.”

“If we are spending, firms are ultimatey going to up production and hire more workers,” he said.

Slifer also the drop in unemployment indicates that the Nov. 6 presidential election, initially feared to pinch hiring in preceding months, has not made much of an impact.

“It is at least suggesting that things are better than we thought,” he said.

The state’s biggest job gains came in the government sector, which posted 15,500 more jobs — a seasonal uptick due to schools going back into session for the fall — and educational and health services, which grew by 3,300. State officials attributed that growth to an increased demand in social assistance programs.

Manufacturing grew by 400 jobs.

The hospitality sector lost 5,800 jobs as the summer tourism season came to a close. Trade, transportation and utilities jobs were down by 2,500, Business services jobs fell by 2,100, and construction jobs sank by 1,900.

State officials said the number of unemployed people across the state dropped by nearly 11,000 over the past month. Meanwhile, the estimated number of employed people went up by more than 13,000, to more than 1.9 million.

South Carolina had the nation’s eighth-highest unemployment last month, and it was among more than three dozen states where jobless figure went down in September. Marion County posted the state’s highest jobless rate, at 15.9 percent. Unemployment was lowest in Lexington County, at 6.3 percent.

Nationally, unemployment was 7.8 percent last month — the lowest level since January 2009 — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Tyrone Richardson of The Post and Courier and Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press contributed to this report.