UNION COUNTY — For the first time in years the unemployment rate in Union County has fallen below 10 percent.
In its monthly report on the state of employment in South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce reported that Union County’s unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent in November. This was a one percent decline from October when the county’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent. The county’s unemployment rate in November was 2.4 percent lower than in November 2012 when it was 12.8 percent.
The decline also means that for the first time in years the county no longer has one of 10 highest — and in some months, one of the five highest — unemployment rates in the state. As of November, Union County — along with Chester County which also had an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent — had the 11th highest unemployment rate in South Carolina.
Local officials welcomed the decline in the county’s unemployment rate with Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker calling it a goal the development board has been working for years to achieve.
“This is fantastic news,” Powell-Baker said. “My office has been working toward single-digit unemployment since 2009.”
In its report the SCDEW states that the “local area unemployment statistics” are “not seasonally adjusted,” which Powell-Baker said indicates that these are jobs not connected to the holiday season, but are jobs that are likely to last beyond the holidays.
“The fact that the 9.4 percent is not seasonally adjusted makes the news even better,” Powell-Baker said. “When the numbers are seasonally adjusted that means people have hired employees just for the season and when the holiday season ends they will likely come off the payroll. So for the 9.4 percent not to be seasonally adjusted means these are jobs that would have been filled whether it was the holidays or not. It’s wonderful news.”
Powell-Baker attributed the decline of the county’s unemployment rate to job growth both inside the county and in the surrounding area.
“It’s due to the 730 jobs we’ve created over the past five years,” Powell-Baker said. “In addition, there are hundreds of jobs that have been created in the region within driving distance of Union.”
In addition to Chester County, all the county’s bordering Union County also had single-digit unemployment rates in November including:
• Spartanburg County — 6.4 percent
• Newberry County — 5.8 percent
• Laurens County — 6.6 percent
• Cherokee County — 8.1 percent
• York County — 7.1 percent
• Fairfield County — 7.9 percent
Development Board Chairman Joe Nichols also welcomed the decline in unemployment which he said suggests the economy is improving.
“It’s got to be due to local expansions that we’ve recently had in Union County,” Nichols said. “It’s also got to be due to some local industries hiring back associates they’d previously let go. This indicates an improving economy, that’s what we’re hearing. We hope this continues and we get more jobs and more hiring.”
Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair also applauded the news, calling it the result of a collaborative effort of the county, the development board, the City of Union, and the State of South Carolina. He said the task now is to continue driving down the unemployment rate by promoting economic development and job growth.
“It has certainly been a long-term goal to decrease unemployment,” Sinclair said. “It has dropped from 20-plus percent to single digits. While that is something to celebrate we have to stay focused on the prize.
“The prize is everyone who seeks a job has an opportunity for one,” he said. “We will keep that approach as we work at the local, regional, and state level.”
The SCDEW reports that South Carolina’s unemployment rate declined from 7.5 percent in October to 7.1 percent in November. In November 2012, the state’s unemployment rate was 8.6 percent.
The report further states that the number of people employed in the nonagricultural sectors of the economy totaled 1,912,600 in November, an increase of 4,300 over October. It further states that since Nov. 2012 the state has added a total of 34,500 nonagricultural jobs.
Those sectors of the economy that experienced job growth included trade, transportation and utilities (4,600), government (2,700), manufacturing (1,100), and education and health services (900). Sectors of the economy that saw decline in payrolls included leisure and hospitality (2,300), professional and business services (1,200), financial activities (700), and construction.
The report states that the national unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent in October to 7 percent in November.
It further states that, at 7.1 percent, the November unemployment rate was the closest that state has been to the national unemployment rate since 2002.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.