Myrtle Beach unemployment climbs as workforce grows

sjones@thesunnews.comJune 21, 2013 

— More people entering the workforce in May rather than a higher number of people losing jobs seems to be the cause of a rise in Horry County unemployment versus April and no change in the statewide rate in the two months, according to information released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Horry County’s unemployment rate increased to 8.3 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April, even though about 2,000 more people had jobs in May than in April.

About 500 more people were unemployed in the county from one month to the next, the statistics showed. But at the same time, the total workforce jumped by almost 2,500 people, from 131,082 in April to 133,458 in May.

The larger size of the workforce means mathematically that even more needed to be employed for the rate to have stayed the same. The official count of the workforce includes not only those who have jobs, but also those looking for work.

The minimal rise in unemployment this time of year is following a trend that goes back until at least 2005, said Rob Salvino, research economist at Coastal Carolina University. He said that since then, there has been a 0.1 percent rise in the unemployment rate from April through June.

Hiring for the leisure and hospitality industry, which had led hiring statewide for the past few months, was replaced at the top by hiring for professional and business services. But the hospitality hiring was second in May and showed a 4.1 percent growth over May 2012.

Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the stronger hospitality hiring shows that employers in that industry are feeling more confident in the economy and the tourist season that’s still in its early stage.

“Most local businesses are anticipating a strong summer season,” Dean said.

He said that employers’ confidence plus the season’s projections may have led to earlier hospitality hiring this year than in the recent past.

Dean also noted the increase in the size of the workforce and said it’s likely due both to more locals looking for jobs as well as people moving here from outside the area to seek work.

Salvino said aging baby boomers and a growth of the number of retired Americans also could provide a boost to hospitality hiring.

Not only do seniors tend to have more disposable income than lower age groups, he said, but generally they also are looking for a higher level of service when they travel.

He further noted that the Grand Strand’s summer hiring peak is the opposite of what happens in most of the nation, where employment drops in the hotter months.

Statewide, all counties and metropolitan statistical areas reported higher unemployment rates in May than April, but the state rate remained at 8 percent for May, the same as it was in April.

The Myrtle Beach MSA showed the largest nonfarm employment gain by percentage, 1.58 percent, in May of the state’s eight MSAs.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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