Homebuilding, tourism affect November numbers

South Carolina's unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent in November, as the housing crisis took a toll on homebuilders and tourism businesses laid workers off for the slow winter months.

The jobless rate ticked up from 5.8 percent in October but was down from 6.6 percent in November 2006, according to a report released Friday by the state Employment Security Commission. The state added only 700 jobs in November but tallied 25,100 new positions in the past year, an increase of 1.3 percent.

The number of people looking for work last month was 126,900, down 10.3 percent from a year before.

Retail stores staffing up for the holidays did most of the hiring — 6,700 positions.

Hospitality businesses trimmed almost 4,000 jobs to keep pace with an outgoing tide of travelers. And there were 1,400 fewer people swinging hammers and pouring concrete, as the soft real estate market curtailed the construction industry.

South Carolina tied with Kentucky and Washington, D.C., for the fifth-highest jobless rate in the country. Michigan, dented by automotive layoffs, was at the bottom of the roster. Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged in November at 4.7 percent.

The labor market in the Charleston region, one of the healthiest in the state, was in line with national averages. In Charleston County, the jobless rate ticked down from 4.6 percent in October to 4.4 percent in November. Berkeley County's rate was unchanged at 5 percent, and Dorchester County's jobless level dropped slightly from 4.7 percent to 4.6 percent.

Four South Carolina counties posted jobless rates higher than 10 percent in November, including Marion County at 11.4 percent. At the other end of the scale, Lexington County had the lowest jobless rate at 4.2 percent.

State economists were bullish about holiday retail sales but said high gasoline prices and the slowdown in real estate could impede growth in the next few months.