The opening of a new grocery story, a new industry gearing up for production and growth at two existing companies helped dramatically lower Union County’s unemployment rate in November.
The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced Wednesday that South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell from 10.5 percent in October to 9.9 percent in November. The national unemployment rate declined from 9 percent to 8.6 percent.
Union County’s unemployment rate fell from 16.7 percent in October to 15.2 percent in November. In addition to being lower than in September, the unemployment rate was lower than in Nov. 2010 when it stood at 17.7 percent.
Irvin M. Goodwin, DEW Staff Manager for the Union office of SC Works Upstate, attributed the decline primarily to the opening of the new Save a Lot grocery store, new positions at Dollar General, hiring by ESAB, and the announced expansion of Gestamp.
“Locally, we’ve had a bump from the new Save a Lot food store and Dollar General is adding some positions,” Goodwin said. ” ESAB is about to start production and they’re filling some spots and Gestamp has said it is also hiring.”
Save a Lot, which is located in Union’s Merchants Walk Shopping Center, held its grand opening Dec. 14. The store employs a staff of 28 including daytime and evening cashiers, grocery stockers, produce stockers, and in its meat department. Nearly 1,100 people applied for the positions during a job fair the store held at the end of November.
Also at the end of November, Dollar General announced it was adding 50 new positions at its Jonesville distribution center. At the time of the announcement, the center employed 475 associates. The 50 new positions are in the distribution center warehouse.
November also saw the announcement by Gestamp South Carolina LLC that it would invest more than $50 million to add approximately 150,000 square feet to its manufacturing facility in Union County. The expansion, which is designed to increase capacity to handled new business contracts, is projected to create 100 new jobs. Gestamp is scheduled to break ground and begin hiring for the expansion in January. Earlier this month, Union County Council approved an incentive package for the auto parts manufacturer that includes extension for one year of a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement covering the existing facility, a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement covering the expansion, and some infrastructure improvements.
In April, it was announced that ESAB Welding & Cutting Products would open a state-of-the art manufacturing facility in Union County. The facility, which is located in the former Midway Milliken building, will employ 101 people in the manufacture of it line of MIG and Sub Arc welding wire. ESAB has invested $19 million in the facility which is scheduled to go into production in the first quarter of 2012.
The decrease also changed Union County’s status from having the state’s fourth-highest unemployment rate to the fifth-highest behind Orangeburg County (15.6 percent), Marlboro County (15.9 percent), Allendale County (16.9 percent) and Marion County (17.3 percent).