UNION COUNTY — For the first time in years Union County’s unemployment rate stands at less than 8 percent and officials are attributing the decline to the creation of a total of 738 jobs by local industry in recent years.
In its February 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 7.7 percent. This was a 1.8 percent decline from January when the county’s unemployment rate stood at 9.5 percent. The county’s unemployment rate in February was 5.2 percent lower than in February 2012 when it was 12.9 percent.
Except for January, the county’s unemployment rate has declined for the past four months beginning in November when it was 9.4 percent, down from 10.4 percent in October. November was the first time in years the county’s unemployment rate was less than 10 percent.
The decline continued in December when the unemployment rate fell to 9.1 percent, but January saw it rise slightly to 9.5 percent only for it to fall again in February.
Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker welcome the decline in the unemployment rate, attributing it to several local industries meeting the hiring commitments they’ve made to the county.
“We’re very excited, the companies that have made commitments are now fulfilling those commitments,” Powell-Baker said Tuesday. “The companies that are hiring or who have been hiring in accordance with their commitments are Belk, Gestamp, Standard Textile, Gonvauto, ESAB, Santuc Precision, Dollar General, and Allied Flooring. They have all contributed to the decline in our unemployment rate. It is all good news.”
Since 2009, as new and/or expanding industries, Belk (294), Gestamp (175), Standard Textile (15), Gonvauto (65), ESAB (101), Santuc Precision (3), Dollar General (50), and Allied Flooring (35) have created a total of 738 new jobs.
Union County Development Board Chairman Joe Nichols attributed the decline in the unemployment rate to a strengthening local economy that has spurred hiring. He even raised the possibility that it could continue to the point where local industries have to begin hiring from outside the county.
“The local economy is still strengthening here in Union County and as a result of hiring by local industries the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent,” Nichols said. “The hiring may eventually lead to the point where we are pulling employees from surrounding counties to fill our requirements for our industries.”
Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair attributed the decline in the unemployment to cooperation between local organizations and institutions to promote economic growth. He added that the declining unemployment rate is a sign of more good news to come for Union County
“It’s means a bright economic future for the county,” Sinclair said. “I attribute it to the county, the city, and the development board all working together in mutual support. There’s an even brighter future in my mind for Union County.”
The SCDEW reports that South Carolina’s unemployment rate declined from 6.4 percent in January to 5.7 percent in February. The report describes the decline as “the largest one-month decrease ever recorded since the date series began in 1976.”
In February 2012, the state’s unemployment rate was 8.1 percent.
The report states that the number of people employed in the nonagricultural sectors of the economy totaled 1,891,100, an increase of 2,100. It further states that, since February 2012, the state has added a total of 33,000 nonagricultural jobs.
Those sectors of the economy that experienced job growth in February included professional and business services (3,600); leisure and hospitality (2,100); education and health services (1,500); government (300); and financial activities (200). Sectors of the economy that saw declines included trade, transportation, and utilities (3,800); other services (1,100); construction (400); manufacturing (200), and information (100).
Until November, Union County’s unemployment rate was one of the 10 highest in South Carolina. Since then, it has fallen, first to the 11th highest in November, and then to the 12th highest in December where it remained in January and in February.
The report states that natinoally the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in February.