A layoff at a local plant at the end of June helped push Union County’s unemployment rate up slightly in July, but the employees who were laid off are eligible to receive financial and educational/training assistance from a federal program for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade.
The SC Department of Employment and Workforce reports that the unemployment rate in South Carolina increased from 9.4 percent in June to 9.6 percent in July. This was the third month in a row that the state unemployment rate, which had decreased for nine straight months to a low of 8.8 percent in April, has increased. Even with the increase, however, the state’s unemployment rate in July was still lower than it was in July 2011 when it was 10.5 percent.
Nationally, the unemployment rate increased from 8.2 percent in June to 8.3 percent in July.
In Union County, the unemployment rate increased slightly from 14.8 percent in June to 14.9 percent in July, the third monthly increase in a row. The July unemployment rate is still lower than it was in January when it hit a post holiday season peak of 15.3 percent. After hitting that peak, the county’s unemployment rate began to fall and continued falling into April when it reached a low of 13.5 percent before beginning to climb again. Even with the increases since then, however, the county’s unemployment rate is still lower than it was in July 2011 when it stood at 16.6 percent.
Roy Lowe, center manager for the SCWorks Union office, said the increase in the county unemployment rate was probably due to the layoff of 57 workers from the Carlisle Finishing plant at the end of June.
“The only significant layoff we had in July was at Carlisle Finishing,” Lowe said Wednesday afternoon. “They actually laid them off at the end of June and they would have filed for unemployment in July.
“There may have been other people laid off elsewhere, but this would have been the most significant number,” he said. “We’ve not seen any other significant numbers from any other single industry.”
Lowe said the information his office received is that the layoffs were due to reductions in Carlisle Finishing’s home decor division due to the impact of imports. He said this made the employees who were laid off eligible for a federal program that helps workers displaced by foreign imports. Under the program, the employees would receive in addition to their regular unemployment benefits, financial and educational assistance from the federal government.
“They’ve been approved for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA),” Lowe said. “That’s a program that provides additional benefits for those who have been foreign trade impacted. Those benefits include monetary benefits and potential education and training benefits. They’ve all been notified of getting TAA approval and when to attend an orientation meeting where they will learn about the benefits. If they haven’t received their letter they need to give us a call at 864-427-4119.”
Another group of workers who might qualify for the TAA program once their employer begins laying them off are the employees of the Timken Company’s Tyger River plant. Timken announced at the beginning of August that it was transferring the smaller bearings production lines at the Tyger River plant to other facilities in the Carolinas and overseas. The plant would instead focus on the production of thrust and large bore bearings greater than 24 inches in size. The company stated the changes are designed to keep the Tyger River plant competitive for years to come.
Smaller bearings accounts for a third of the Tyger River plant’s production and the company stated the transfer would result in the phasing out of 183 jobs or 37 percent of the facility’s current workforce of 465 employees.The first jobs to be eliminated would be those of 60 temporary workers which would be phased out by the end of 2012. The other 123 jobs — 110 operative and 13 salaried positions — are scheduled be phased out by the end of 2013.
Lowe said he didn’t know whether any of those layoffs have already occurred, but that when they do, the Timken employees might be eligible for the TAA program. He said either the company or the employees themselves could apply to the US Department of Labor for TAA assistance and if it was determined that they were the result of foreign importers, the workers might be eligible for TAA monetary and educational help.
Sixth In Unemployment
Even with the July increase, Union County continued to rank sixth in unemployment in the state. In May, the county was among the top five counties in South Carolina in terms of unemployment. It fell to sixth even though its unemployment rate increased in June. The counties with unemployment rates higher than Union County in July were Barnwell (15.1 percent), Bamberg (16.1 percent), Marlboro (16.3 percent), Allendale (16.9 percent), and Marion (17.6 percent).