Published April 21, 2014
South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 5.5% in March — its lowest level in six years, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
March’s jobless rate improved from the 5.7% recorded in February.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the S.C. jobless rate decline of 2.5 percentage points from 8% in March of 2013 was the largest decline in the country. Neighboring North Carolina had the second-largest decline at 2.2 percentage points, the federal agency reported.
The employment department also reported that the number of out-of-work South Carolinians declined by 5,077 to 119,058.
The estimated number of employed persons in March was 2,046,002, up 6,560 since February. This is the eighth consecutive monthly increase and marks an all-time high, the department said. Between March 2013 and March 2014, an estimated 32,555 people have found work.
Additionally, the state labor force increased sequentially in March, up by 1,483 to 2,165,060. Since March 2013 the labor force has declined by nearly 23,982 people.
The unemployment statistics indicate the S.C. economy is on the right track, said Cheryl Stanton, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce executive director.
“South Carolina has seen 10 consecutive months of a declining unemployment rate,” Stanton said. “More South Carolinians are working now than ever before. Businesses and workforce partners continue to work every day to make sure we get every South Carolinian back to work.”
Gov. Nikki Haley reiterated Stanton’s remarks.
“With more South Carolinians working than ever before, it’s clear we are consistently moving in the right direction, and that is another great reason to celebrate,” Haley said.
Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7% in March.
Although the statewide trend saw the jobless rate fall, all of South Carolina’s major metro areas reported an uptick in unemployment compared with February’s figures.
Greenville metro area had the lowest rate at 4.5%, up 0.3 percentage points from February’s jobless rate of 4.2%. Charleston’s jobless rate for March was 4.6%, up from 4.4% in February, while Columbia’s jobless rate was 4.9%, up from February’s rate of 4.7%. Florence’s jobless rate edged up to 6.3% in March compared with 6.2% for the previous month.
Among the state’s 46 counties, only Marion and Allendale reported double-digit jobless rates. Marion’s rate for March was 10.4%, while Allendale’s was an even 10%. Lexington County had the lowest jobless rate at 4.2%.
Sectors seeing the largest gains during the month were professional and business services, up 3,900, followed by construction, up by 2,500; education and health services, 1,900; leisure and hospitality, 800; and manufacturing, 500.
A decrease occurred only in financial activities, down 100.
Since March 2013, jobs were up 39,400 overall with the largest gains in leisure and hospitality, up 11,400, followed by professional and business services, up 8,000; trade, transportation and utilities, 6,000; education and health services, 6,000; manufacturing, 5,100; and construction, 3,500.
Modest declines of 200 or less were reported in information, government, financial activities, and natural resources and mining.