UNION — After increasing for three months in a row, Union County’s unemployment rate decreased slightly in August, possibly due to job growth outside the county or to more people opting out of the labor force.
In a report issued Friday, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) announced that South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in August, the same as in July. This was the first time in three months that the state’s unemployment rate did not increase. The increase began in May after declining for eight straight months.
The report estimated that the number of unemployed people dropped by 2,021 to 204,941 in August. It also stated that there were 1,926,595 people employed in South Carolina in August, a decrease of 10,347 from July. This was the fifth month in a row that the number of people employed in the state had declined, and the report states that “the labor force participation rate (58.4) is the lowest since 1976 (the oldest data available) and is reflective of more people choosing not to participate in the labor force than ever before.”
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August. The report stated that the decrease was “primarily driven by fewer people participating in the labor force.”
In Union County, the report stated that the unemployment rate declined from 14.8 percent in July to 14.7 percent in August.
Roy Lowe, center manager for the SCWorks Union office, said the decrease in the county’s unemployment rate could be due to job growth in other parts of the Upstate.
“There’s nothing that I can tell you that we saw in Union County that could account for that,” Lowe said Friday. “There’s nothing that we’ve seen major here in the county. There has, however, been a steady posting of jobs in the Upstate, especially in Cherokee County and Spartanburg County.”
The SCDEW divides South Carolina into 12 Workforce Investment Regions. This includes the Upstate Region which is composed of Cherokee, Spartanburg and Union counties.
Lowe said it was also possible that the decline in the unemployment rate was due to people dropping out of the county’s labor force.
“You have people who are already unemployed who have stopped looking for work,” Lowe said. “The U.S. Department of Labor titles them ‘discouraged workers.’
“The unemployment rate is based on the number of people in the workforce versus the number of people unemployed,” he said. “When you have people who are unemployed who stop looking for work it reduces your unemployment numbers, it keeps your unemployment rate from going up.”
Lowe cautioned that he could not say for certain this was the reason Union County’s unemployment rate declined in August, because his office has no way of tracking who is unemployed and still looking for work and who isn’t locally. Nevertheless, he said it is one possible cause just as job creation in other counties could be.
Union County’s labor force totaled 11,320 in August with 9,661 people employed and 1,659 unemployed. In July, the county’s labor forced totaled 11,444 with 9,746 people employed and 1,698 unemployed.
The county unemployment rate was lower in August than it was a year earlier than it stood at 16.7 percent. In Aug. 2011, the county’s labor force totaled 11,569 with 9,641 people employed and 1,928 unemployed.
Seventh In Unemployment
Regardless of its cause, the decline in its unemployment rate in August enabled Union County to go from having the sixth-highest unemployment rate in South Carolina to having the seventh-highest. In May, the county was among the top five counties in South Carolina in terms of unemployment, but fell to sixth in June and July despite its unemployment rate increasing in those months.
The counties with unemployment rates higher than Union County’s in August were Barnwell County (14.8 percent), Orangeburg County (15.9 percent), Bamberg County (16.3 percent), Marlboro County (16.5 percent), Allendale County (16.9 percent), and Marion County (17.3 percent).
Those counties also saw a decrease in their labor forces between July and August with Barnwell’s falling from 8,463 to 8,300, Orangeburg’s from 41,778 to 41,769, Bamberg’s from 6,319 to 6,236, Marlboro’s from 11,545 to 11,330, Allendale’s from 3,347 to 3,270, and Marion’s from 12,120 to 11,825.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.