Myrtle Beach area unemployment falls sharply

sjones@thesunnews.comMarch 28, 2014 

Unemployed line up at area workforce center.

STEVE JESSMORE

Horry County’s unemployment rate fell by more than two points last month, an unusual statistical move for the middle of the winter and a sign that both the Grand Strand and state economies are improving more quickly than anticipated, according to Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce..

“We expect to see a natural decline in unemployment as the season kicks in,” Dean said, “but the numbers reported today are much better than anticipated.”

The state Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday that Horry County’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in February, down from 9.4 percent in January.

Georgetown County’s unemployment rate also fell in February to 6.5 percent, a 1.4-point drop from January.

Statewide, unemployment fell to 5.7 percent, a 0.7-point drop that was the largest one-month decrease since the unemployment data series began in 1976. The news was hailed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.

“This morning we are celebrating our unemployment rate dropping to 5.7 percent and the fact that more of our citizens are working than ever before,” she said.

Nationally, February’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.

The rates in Horry and Georgetown were both down nearly four points from the rates in February 2013.

The Myrtle Beach metropolitan area gained the most jobs of any of the state’s metro areas, according to DEW. Its report said that 1,700 jobs were added to the area’s economy in February, a 1.54 percent gain over January. The numbers said that compared to February a year ago, the Myrtle Beach area had 3,300 more jobs this year.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality added 2,200 jobs in February, the second fastest-growing segment. Professional and business services was the fastest-growing segment in the state with an additional 3,600 jobs in February.

Stephen Greene, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, said that while area tourism employers are beginning to hire for seasonal jobs, he doesn’t see anything that would tie that hiring to the drop in unemployment.

The 1,700 additional jobs in the Myrtle Beach area brought the total employment up to 112,200 out of a workforce of about 121,000 in February.

Dean said the numbers, if they hold, bode well for the area’s economy for the next year.

But he warned that the Grand Strand and state still have a high number of unemployed people – the state’s report found more than 8,700 in Horry County in February – as well as many people who have dropped out of the workforce altogether.

“Even though these are very good numbers and a sign of a growing economy,” he said, “there’s still much work to be done in job creation, both here and throughout South Carolina.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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