The state Department of Employment and Workforce on Friday released its monthly employment data for April. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 5.3 percent—the lowest that unemployment has been since June 2001—from 5.5 percent in March.
These figures have the agency and the Governor’s Office rejoicing. “This kind of progress says a lot about our state, our workforce, and all the businesses that call South Carolina home that continue to grow and find success here,” said Gov. Nikki Haley Friday in a news release.
And why shouldn’t they celebrate? The number of those unemployed shrunk by more than 4,000 people over the month to 114,413. Sixty-one people joined the work force last month, after the labor force lost almost 23,000 people since April 2013. Included in the labor force are employed and unemployed people.
But here are several other takeaways from last month’s jobless numbers—
1—The labor force has grown, but is still anemic.
The unemployment rate may be down universally across all 46 counties and four major metropolitan areas—Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville. But we like to zone in on another, and in some cases, more telling number—labor force participation.
The labor force shrunk in every rural county over the past year with one exception—the state’s southernmost county of Jasper, which borders Hampton and Beaufort counties, grew its labor force since April 2013. The labor force grew in Georgetown, Beaufort, Anderson, and Greenville counties and in Greenville MSA in April 2014 over 2013. Georgetown County also saw growth in its labor force over the previous month.
Horry County’s labor force contracted since April 2013, but grew by more than 5,000 people from March to April 2014.
2—Business is booming in few industries—including government.
South Carolina’s economy added 5,300 jobs last month and 39,900 in the last year, adjusted to account for seasonal patterns in employment. The largest gains from March to April 2014 were in government; trade, transportation and utilities; and manufacturing—1,300, 1,600 and 1,800, respectively. Employment in government is still down by 400 since April 2013.
3—What the report doesn’t say about the underemployed.
Under the broadest measure of unemployment, the unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2013 through the first quarter of 2014 was 13.2 percent. Included in that measure—U-6—are marginally attached workers and those who are employed part-time for economic reasons. This represents quite a few people who have given up working, or who are barely making ends meet, but can’t find additional work.
4—Job growth was concentrated in three of the state’s eight major metropolitan areas.
From March to April 2014 the Charleston, Columbia and Myrtle Beach areas saw most of the seasonally adjusted job growth—1,100, 3,400, 2,400, respectively. Conversely, the Anderson and Florence areas lost 300 jobs each, and Spartanburg lost 100.