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Initial S.C. unemployment claims soar for week ending Jan. 1

Human Resources
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By Christina Lee Knauss

The first week of initial unemployment claims stretching into 2022 in South Carolina saw an increase of more than 2,400 from the previous week. 

For the week ending Jan. 1, 3,582 initial unemployment claims were filed in the state, an increase of 2,447 from the week before. Anderson County saw 1,305 claims, the highest in the state by more than 800, according to data from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. Richland County had 442 claims. 

The dramatic uptick in unemployment claims is probably not indicative of an overall trend, according to Erica Von Nessen, an economist with DEW. 

"This is something that typically happens every year in the weeks right after Christmas," Von Nessen said. "In recent years we've seen claims more than double right after the holidays. It can seem alarming when you see it, but it usually doesn't mean anything long term. "

Von Nessen said this recent surge in claims likely comes from a round of temporary layoffs in manufacturing and other sectors. Immediately after the holidays, she said, it's not uncommon forsome manufacturers and other employers to shut down temporarily to clean facilities and reconfigure operations. Many workers in those positions are likely to go back to work in the near future, she said. 

Layoffs of seasonal employees also make up part of the claims numbers, although Von Nessen said there were not as many temporary hires this season as retailers especially made an effort to hire more permanent employees to make up for existing employee shortages. 

Von Nessen said this recent uptick in claims also doesn't appear to be related to the pandemic, saying claims will likely increase for the next two to three weeks before leveling off.

"If they don't come down by the end of the month, then there will be legitimate cause for some concern, and that will mean something else is going on," she said.

Nationally, claims increased by 7,000 from the previous week to 207,000. 

For the week ending Jan. 1, Greenwood County had 177 first-time claims, Greenville County reported 141 and Spartanburg County had 99.

Since March 15, 2020, 947,122 initial claims have been filed in South Carolina, with $6.59 billion paid in a combination of state and federal unemployment benefits.

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