MYRTLE BEACH — The one point drop in Horry County’s unemployment rate from June to July is at least partly a seasonal thing, but this year there might be another, longer-term part of the equation, said Rob Salvino, an economist at Coastal Carolina University.
Salvino said the drop to 7.6 percent in July is more pronounced than the seasonal drop in recent years, and he thought part of it could be due to an increase in construction jobs.
The state Department of Employment and Workforce said that statewide 800 new construction jobs were added in July, bringing the past year’s total increase to 4,600.
Salvino said that Horry County has a higher ratio of new homes sales versus existing home sales than the U.S. and the rest of the state. Additionally, he pointed out that Horry County’s single-family building permits are outpacing the country and the state’s other metropolitan areas.
“We just don’t have the housing stock compared to the Northeast,” Salvino said, explaining the need for new home construction along the Grand Strand.
He said if construction jobs are a significant factor in the drop in July’s jobless rate, it will show up in unemployment rates for September, October and November, after the bulk of the tourists have gone home.
While thousands of new construction jobs were added in the state during the past year, the tourism and hospitality sector of the state’s economy was the big contributor, with 11,500 new jobs since last July. The sector added 900 jobs from June to July, the DEW reported, tied for second place with “other services.”
Trade, transportation and utility jobs were the big gainer – 3,100 added – in the last month.
Georgetown County also saw a significant drop in its jobless rate, down 0.9 points to 7.9 percent in July.
The Horry rate was just 0.2 points above the national rate of 7.4 percent in July and 0.7 points ahead of the statewide, 8.1 percent unemployment rate.
Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. and Horry County’s chief job recruiter, said that six months is a long time for seasonal workers to go without a job.
“I think we still have the need to make sure the jobs we are creating are year-round and with benefits,” Lofton said.
He said that one of his goals is to even out the seasonal employment spike, although he knows it will never go away entirely.
He said that the spike now may be 8 percent to 10 percent in seasonal employment, and he hopes new, fulltime job creation can cut that to 5 percent to 7 percent.
“Those jobs you see spiking won’t last,” he said.
Nearly 2,300 more people were employed in Horry in July than June, the state figures showed. At the same time, the workforce grew by about 1,000 to a total of 139,527.
Salvino said that the inflow of new residents will have a positive affect on year-round employment as they will require more and more services.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.