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Unemployment still on the rise, but health care jobs are safe

More people will continue to lose jobs in 2009, even after the economy looks like it's starting to recover.

Don Schunk, a research economist with Coastal Carolina University, said the unemployment rate in Horry County will stay in the double digits through 2010.

Things will start to turn in the first quarter of 2010, he said.

Unemployment levels in 2008 prompted South Carolina to borrow from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits, and it's unclear what will happen this year with the state's trust fund, said Rodney Welch, a spokesman with the S.C. Employment Security Commission.

Myrtle Beach is affected two ways by unemployment: Not only does it hurt the area's economy when local companies shed jobs, it also hurts when companies in other states lay people off, because it limits tourists' spending.

Jobs in the health care field, especially on the Grand Strand, are as close as it comes to recession-proof. So far, area hospitals have not instituted hiring freezes or laid people off.

With the area's growing and aging population, there's an increasing demand for health care services, Schunk said.

"Even throughout 2009, I expect to see job growth in all kinds of health-related fields," he said. "Beyond that, you'd be real hard-pressed to find any major industry that's going to be growing."

Hotels, restaurants and attractions will lead the pack in job losses, he said.