South Carolina’s June unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, unchanged since April. For the optimist, the news is neutral at least—after all, April’s rate was the lowest in 13 years. And more than 35,000 people are working, compared with a year ago.
“With nearly 60,000 available jobs, the future of the Palmetto State is bright,” said Director Cheryl Stanton in a news release by the state Department of Employment and Workforce.
But on the unemployment rate, I’m no optimist. This partly comes with the job. But I also think we regard the unemployment rate too highly.
Just ask the people who dropped out of the labor force—217 last month, according to DEW. Over the year, the labor force shrunk by more than 20,000 people. Or ask the worker employed part time for economic reasons—up by 275,000 in June to 7.5 million, according to the federal Labor Department.
I have a feeling these workers might agree with me.
Statewide underemployment figures were not included in the state agency’s news release Friday.
A fact sheet released by Gov. Nikki Haley’s office in June trumpeted the more than 56,000 jobs announcements since she took office in 2011.
Haley, together with the Department of Commerce, announced approximately 375 economic development projects during her tenure—290 of those are manufacturing expansions and openings. The economy added 300 manufacturing jobs in June and 7,800 over the past year.
But despite the expanding payrolls, economists say too few skilled workers exist to fill in the gaps in sectors across the state’s economy—this could explain the labor force participation rate and other anemic workforce factors.
Nationally, the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more shrunk by 293,000 to 3.1 million in June.
The number of marginally attached workers—those who hadn’t looked for a job in the past four weeks, but were available for work—shrunk by 554,000 to two million over the past year. A subset of the marginally attached, the number of discouraged workers fell to 676,000 from more than one million. Discouraged workers have given up the job search because they think no jobs are available to them.
Some employment indicators are budging in the right direction. And celebrating victories comes with the territory of running a state agency. But when it comes to keeping the health of the economy in perspective, we have to examine all the numbers.