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S.C. unemployment rate drops to pre-pandemic level

Human Resources
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Unemployment in South Carolina fell to 3.7% in November from 3.9% in October, with the leisure and hospitality industry reporting a state-high 2,500 gains.  

The unemployment rate is the state’s lowest since the pandemic began, Dan Ellzey, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce executive director, said in a news release. 

“In 19 months, our state dropped 7.8 points in its unemployment rate, from 11.5% in April and May of 2020 to the current rate,” Ellzey said.   

DEW’s seasonally adjusted, monthly survey of households estimated the number of South Carolinians working at 2,317,620, an increase of 4,330 from the October 2021 estimate and 100,032 from November 2020.  

Unemployment estimates decreased to 89,473 people, down 4.892 from October 2021 and 41,882 from November 2020. The state’s estimated labor force, or those working plus unemployed people looking for work, decreased by 562 people in November to 2,407,093. That’s an increase of 58,150 people from November 2020.   

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in November from 4.6% in October.  

“South Carolina currently has more people employed than at any time in our history,” Ellzey said. “The November employment numbers show that we have 2,317,620 people employed, which is 4,302 more than the previous high in October of 2019 and is 18,279 more than the pre-pandemic level in February of 2020.  

“That number is made even more significant by the fact that the United States as a whole has 3,600,000 fewer people employed in November of 2021 than prior to the pandemic in February of 2020.” 

In South Carolina, leisure and hospitality led an increase of 4,600 nonfarm payroll jobs, which rose in November to 2,158,500. Professional and business services (2,100) and construction (1,100) also saw gains, while decreases were reported in manufacturing, which lost 2,000 jobs, and trade, transportation and utilities, which lost 1,000.  

From November 2020 to November 2021, South Carolina’s economy has gained 54,100 jobs, with trade, transportation and utilities gaining 14,200 and leisure and hospitality adding 12,100, according to DEW. The financial activities industry lost 1,200 jobs year-to-year.  

The Columbia metropolitan statistical area added no jobs from October to November but has added 7,700 since November 2020. Charleston/North Charleston added 2,400 jobs month-to-month and 15,400 year-to-year; Greenville/Anderson/Mauldin added 2,000 jobs month-to-month and 11,000 year-to-year; and Spartanburg added 700 jobs from October to November and 5,700 from November 2020 to November 2021.  

Unemployment estimates increased in four S.C. counties from October to November 2021: Hampton, Horry, Edgefield and Pickens. In Richland County, where unemployment stood at 5.7% in November 2020, the rate fell to 3% in November from 3.1% in October. Unemployment remained unchanged from October to November at 2.3% in Lexington County, where it stood at 4.1% in November 2020.  

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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