Last updated: November 26. 2013 7:18AM - 573 Views
By - cwarner@civitasmedia.com

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UNION COUNTY — New industry and existing industry expansions increased the number of Union County residents with jobs to more than 10,000 in October and gave the county its lowest monthly unemployment rate so far this year.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce has announced that South Carolina’s unemployment declined from 7.9 percent in September to 7.5 percent in October. The state unemployment in October was 1.3 percent lower than it was in October 2012 when it stood at 8.8 percent.

Nationally, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 7.2 percent in September to 7.3 percent in October.

In South Carolina in October, the SCDEW reports that the state labor force totaled 2,156,962, of which 1,994,349 were employed and 162,613 unemployed. In September, the state’s labor force totaled 2,160,954, of which 1,990,884 were employed and 170,070 were unemployed.

The growth of the state’s labor force in October included the addition of 3,600 non-agricultural jobs, with the largest increase being in the manufacturing sector which added 2,600 jobs. Also adding jobs in October were the construction (1,800), educational and health services (1,800), financial activities (400), and information (300) sectors.

Sectors reporting declines in October included other services (1,100), professional and business services (900), and leisure and hospitality (900). The SCDEW attributed these losses to declines in the tourism industry. There were also decreases in the government (300) and trade, transportation, and utilities (100) sectors.

The job gains reported in October amounted to a little more than 10 percent of the job growth the SCDEW reports South Carolina has experienced since October 2012. As of October 2013, the SCDEW reports that South Carolina has added 33,600 jobs,

Growth occurred in most sectors of the economy during that time including trade, transportation, and utilities (6,400), professional and business services (6,300), construction (4,900), leisure and hospitality (4,800), manufacturing and government (3,800), education and health (3,000), and financial activities (2,700). Declines were reported in the other services (1,800) and information (200) sectors.

Union County

All of South Carolina’s 46 counties reported declines in unemployment except Edgefield County which increased from 7.9 percent to 8.1 percent and Georgetown County where it remained unchanged at 7.5 percent.

Union County’s unemployment rate fell from 11 percent in September to 10.4 percent in October. In October 2012, the county’s unemployment rate stood at 13.3 percent.

October’s unemployment rate was the county’s lowest monthly unemployment rate this year. In January, the county’s unemployment rate reached 14.3 percent. After reaching that peak, the county’s unemployment rate declined to 12.1 percent in April before climbing again to 13.2 percent in June.

The decline in the county’s unemployment rate was accompanied by an increase in the size of its labor force from 11,178 in September to 11,206 in October. The number of persons employed also increased, going from 9,949 in September to 10,039 in October while the number of the unemployed decreased from 1,229 to 1,167.

Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker attributed the decrease in the county’s unemployment rate and the increase in the number of people employed to increased hiring by local and regional industries.

Powell-Baker said Monday that the development board holds two Plant Managers Forums every year as part of its Business Retention and Expansion Program. Powell-Baker said the BRE Program is designed to promote the retention and expansion of existing businesses in the county. She said the forum provides opportunities for plant managers to come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing their businesses.

At the most recent forum, Powell-Baker said the managers were all upbeat, expressing their confidence that the economy is on the upswing. Powell-Baker said they spoke about how their customers were placing more orders with them and that they were getting new customers as well. She said they also spoke about hiring more personnel.

“This demonstrates that not only their level of confidence in their business, it also demonstrates a higher level of confidence about doing business in Union County,” Powell-Baker said. “All of the new companies that we’ve recruited in the last three years — Belk and Gonvauto — are still hiring, fulfilling their commitment to Union County. Then there’s existing industries like Carlisle Finishing, Timken, Gestamp, and Standard Textiles who are also hiring.”

In addition to the growth of companies within the county, Powell-Baker said that hiring by companies in the region is also having an impact on the county’s unemployment rate.

“You’ve got BMW and you’ve got ZF in Laurens who are both expanding,” Powell-Baker said. “Locally, our new and existing companies are having an impact but so are the expansions of companies in the region.”

Powell-Baker pointed that it is the expansion of both businesses recruited in recent years and older companies that is fueling the growth of investment and job creation in Union County.

“We’re going to finish up 2013 with over $70 million in capital investment and over 200 new, full-time jobs,” Powell-Baker said. “All of that is attributed to the expansion of existing industry.”

Powell-Baker added that expansion of existing industry takes the form of investment in new equipment and/or the creation of new jobs. She said that even when the expansion only involves new equipment, this still generates more revenue for the county.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.

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