S.C. indicators point to continued growth

Staff Report
Published April 3, 2014

South Carolina’s index of leading economic indicators rose slightly in February, staying above the 100 mark and pointing to continued growth for the next three to six months, the S.C. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday.

The index finished February at 101.03, up 0.02 points from the last time it was measured at the end of December.

The index rose despite large swings among several key indicators, said David Clayton, director of the agency’s research division.

For example, the average number of manufacturing hours worked in South Carolina fell 6.9% to 39 hours a week. That was offset by a 12.5% increase in residential building permits for the month and 51.3% decline in the number of initial claims for Unemployment Insurance.

Other indicators on the upswing were personal income, 0.5%; state stock index, 0.4%; nonfarm employment, 0.1%; and available online job postings for February, 1.1%.

Meanwhile the state’s labor force decreased 0.3% or 5,460 workers in February and the unemployment rate dropped 0.7 percentage points to 5.7%.

Clayton noted that the state labor market has seen “dramatic improvement” over the past year with most of it resulting from the private sector.

“South Carolina’s job growth over the last year places it among the top third of all states with the second-fastest growing payroll employment in the Southeast, closely behind Florida,” Clayton said.

During the past 12 months, the state has added 5,300 professional and business services jobs, 4,800 jobs in manufacturing, and 3,200 jobs in construction.

Meanwhile, local, state and federal government employment has dropped by 100 positions since February 2013.

All of the state’s large metro markets ranked in the Milken Institute’s list of the top 200 best-performing cities in the United States, the report added.

Charleston ranked No. 11 nationally, followed by Greenville, 47; Spartanburg, 79; Columbia, 122; and Myrtle Beach, 128.

The list of top cities shows where jobs are being created and sustained in metros across the United States, the institute said.

The index includes measures of job, wage and technology performance to rank the nation's 200 large metropolitan areas and 179 smaller metros. Unlike other "best places" rankings, Milken said its list does not use quality-of-life metrics, such as commute times or housing costs.

Based in Santa Monica, Calif., the institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that says it believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges.

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