MYRTLE BEACH — The Grand Strand started 2013 with the usual jump in unemployment because of the tourism off-season, but it’s better than it was a year ago, according to statistics released Monday.
Horry County’s and Georgetown County’s rates each jumped substantially in January as expected: Horry’s to 12.4 percent from 11 percent in December, while Georgetown County’s jumped back into double digits to hit 10.6 percent from 9.7 percent in December, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
But despite the usual hikes, more residents were employed along the Grand Strand in January compared to January 2012, the statistics show. In Horry County, about 4,300 more residents were employed in January compared to January 2012, when the jobless rate was 13.9 percent. About 2,100 more residents in Georgetown County had jobs compared to January 2012.
“We still have high unemployment but we are still headed in the right direction,” said Rob Salvino, an economist at Coastal Carolina University. “There’s nothing to signify this is anything but a slow recovery.”
Last year, South Carolina added 31,100 jobs, with the biggest chunk -- 9,800 jobs -- added in leisure and hospitality, according to the state workforce department. Other sectors with the largest gains: trade, transportation and utilities, 6,900 jobs; government, 6,500 jobs; manufacturing, 3,000 jobs; financial activities, 2,800 jobs and construction, 2,600 jobs.
Education and health services stayed steady, while professional and business services lost 2,000 jobs and mining and logging dropped 100 jobs.
In January, South Carolina’s jobless rate ticked up to 8.7 percent from a revised 8.6 percent in December. Nationally, the jobless rate also ticked up in January to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December.
Despite the slow improvement over the year, jobseekers along the Grand Strand looking for full-time professional work likely aren’t having an easier time finding a job than a few years ago, Salvino said.
“It’s still very competitive,” he said. “There’s a lot of people looking for that type of job.”
Those looking for work in hospitality likely will have an easier time because the number of tourism jobs has grown, Salvino said.
Hiring for the upcoming summer season is in full swing, with hotels and attractions scheduling jobs fairs to recruit as many as 200 seasonal workers for each property. Horry County’s jobless rate traditionally drops as the season gears up and more folks find themselves on the payrolls again.
The state's peak unemployment rate was 12 percent in November 2009.
In January, South Carolina's unemployment was tied with Georgia for the nation's ninth-highest jobless rates. California and Rhode Island tied for the country's highest jobless rates, at 9.8 percent.
Unemployment was up in all but two of South Carolina's 46 counties. Marion County had the state's highest jobless rate at 19.2 percent, while unemployment was lowest in Lexington County at 6.8 percent.
Workforce officials said they planned to release information about South Carolina's February unemployment figures later this month.
The director of South Carolina's unemployment agency resigned earlier this year following weeks of criticism from legislators about the ending of one-on-one help at rural offices. Abraham Turner's resignation came a day after senators demanded answers for why the agency, since August, has given 69 employees raises totaling nearly $440,000, but is cutting one-on-one help for people seeking benefits in 17 rural offices statewide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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