UNION — Union County’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level this year and the county’s labor force increased slightly in September despite a lack of major hiring within the county.
In a report issued Friday, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (SDEW) announced that South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in September, down from 9.6 percent in August. This was the first decrease in the state’s unemployment rate in four months. Unemployment in South Carolina declined for eight straight months before increasing in May and continued to increase until August when the rate was the same as it had been in July.
The report also stated that the unemployment rate in September was 1.1 percent lower than it was in Sept. 2011 when it stood at 10.2 percent.
September was the first time in six months that the number of people employed in South Carolina increased. The report stated that 1,940,026 people were employed in the state in September, up 13,329 from the 1,926,595 employed in August.
The state’s labor force also increased in size, going from 2,131,688 in August to 2,134,279 in September, a gain of 2,591.
Nationally, the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September. The number of people employed nationwide grew by 873,000, but the report stated that of these 582,000 were working part-time jobs.
In Union County, the report stated the unemployment rate declined from 14.6 percent in August to 13 percent in September.
This was the second month in a row the county’s unemployment rate had declined and the lowest it has been all year.
Union County’s unemployment rate hit a post holiday season peak of 15.3 percent before beginning to fall in February and continuing to do so into April when it reach a low of 13.5 percent. The unemployment then began to climb again through July when it reached 14.8 percent before beginning to decline again in August.
The report stated the number of people employed in the county rose from 9,694 in August to 9,918 in September, an increase of 224.
There were 1,483 people unemployed in Union County in September compared to 1,651 in August, a decrease of 168.
The county’s labor force grew slightly, going from 11,345 people in August to 11,401 in September, an increase of 56.
Roy Lowe, center manager for the SCWorks Union office, said the decrease in the county’s unemployment rate is probably due to hiring by companies outside Union County because there was no surge in hiring within the county in September.
“We’ve not seen any major hiring here within the last month,” Lowe said. “The increase is likely due to hiring by employers outside the county.”
Lowe said that while his office has not seen much hiring by local employers, there has been an increase in the number of people using its resources to look for jobs.
While he welcomed the news of the decline in Union County’s unemployment rate and the growth of its labor force, Lowe cautioned against reading too much into the new figures.
“You’re looking at a labor force that’s increased by only 56 people,” Lowe said. “When you’re talking about a county as small as Union County it doesn’t take much to move our numbers.
“Our employment rate is lower than it was in September of 2011 and so is our unemployment rate,” he said. “However, our labor force is smaller in September of this year than it was at this time last year.”
In Sept. 2011, Union County’s unemployment rate was 16.5 percent with 1,903 unemployed and 9,657 employed out of a total labor force of 11,560.
Sixth in unemployment
Despite the decrease, Union County went from having the seventh-highest unemployment rate in South Carolina to having the sixth highest.
In May, the county was among the top five counties in South Carolina in terms of unemployment. It then fell to sixth in June and remained there in July before falling to seventh in August and remaining there in September.
The counties with unemployment rates higher than Union County’s in September were Barnwell County (13.2 percent), Bamberg County (13.4 percent), Marlboro County (14.7 percent), Allendale County (15.4 percent), and Marion County (15.9 percent).
All of these counties also experienced a decline in their unemployment rates between August and September with Barnwell’s falling from 14.6 percent, Bamberg’s from 16.4 percent, Marlboro’s from 17 percent, Allendale’s from 16.7 percent, and Marion’s from 17.3 percent.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.