Horry’s unemployment rate steady as most of state climbs

sjones@thesunnews.comJuly 18, 2014 

The June jobless rate in Horry County remained at 5.5 percent thanks to strong growth in tourism-related jobs while the rate climbed in all but two other South Carolina counties, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

The state rate also held steady at 5.3 percent, where it has been since April.

Georgetown County’s rate climbed to 5.7 percent in June from 5.4 percent in May, DEW reported.

Rob Salvino, an economist at Coastal Carolina University, noted there was a gain of 6,600 jobs statewide in leisure and hospitality during the month, most of which he said were along the Grand Strand.

The Myrtle Beach metropolitan statistical area led the state’s major population areas with a gain of 4.39 percent in the number of jobs from May to June. The Myrtle Beach MSA gained 5,600 jobs during the month, according to DEW, and the Greenville MSA was the only other with positive growth, 100 jobs.

Salvino said that stable housing prices also helped the state, and the Grand Strand, to sidestep construction job losses seen elsewhere.

He said that Las Vegas, for instance, saw construction jobs drop 18 percent as house prices rose 50 percent. Nationally, the prices were up 25 percent and jobs down 2 percent.

Unemployment in York County fell from 6.2 percent in May to 5.8 percent in June. Aiken County recorded a 5.5 percent unemployment rate for June, down from 5.7 percent in May.

They were the only two of the state’s counties where the unemployment rate dropped during June.

The state’s labor force – the number of people working or looking for work – remained firm from May to June at 2,165,711, a decline of 217 people, according DEW.

Horry County’s labor force grew by nearly 7,000 people from May to June. Likewise, the number of people with jobs in Horry County grew 6,300 during June.

The number of unemployed people in the state grew to 115,583, up 630 people since May. And the number of people with jobs declined by 847 to 2,050,128.

Some economists say the Palmetto State’s year-long run of shrinking unemployment rates could be over.

“I don’t think it’s going to drop anymore,” College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said. “The national economy is sputtering and that’s going to affect us.”

South Carolina’s unemployment rate had been shrinking rapidly for about a year, falling 2.5 percentage points since June of 2013.

Mark Vitner, chief economist for Wells Fargo Bank, said that while the state’s economy continues to chug along in its post-recession recovery – 42,500 jobs have been created since June 2013 – this stagnant stretch represents a leveling out period after a couple of anomalies.

When federal emergency unemployment benefits ran out in December, that caused a lot of folks to stop looking for work, artificially driving down the jobless rate. Since then, the workforce has been slowly growing, causing that plunge to stop.

“There was a lot of noise in the numbers,” he said.

Lexington County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 5 percent in June, up from 4.4 percent in May. Allendale County had the highest rate at 10.1 percent, up from 9.4 percent in May.

The State contributed to this report.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_sjones.

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