South Carolina's Employment Increased and Unemployment Fell During October
Labor market conditions in South Carolina improved dramatically again in October, as payroll employment jumped for the second month in a row and the unemployment rate plunged. Meanwhile, our Carolinas Survey of Business Activity suggested that the region's modest economic expansion continued in November, although the pace of hiring was slow.
For the second straight month, total payroll employment increased substantially in South Carolina, according to the state's Department of Employment and Workforce. Firms in the state added 7,300 net new positions in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, augmenting the nearly 15,000 jobs that were generated in September. With those increases, payroll employment in the Palmetto State rose to its highest level of the recovery to date, and its best since December 2008.
The vast majority of South Carolina's net job gains in October and September occurred in the private sector, although the government made a positive contribution in both months as well. Private education and health care services firms have been leading the way in South Carolina recently, as the sector added about 6,200 net new jobs over the past four months, with 1,300 of them coming in October. Financial activities employment growth has been particularly strong as well, with a gain of 1,100 net new positions in October adding to the roughly 3,100 that were created in the industry during August and September. After sustained weakness earlier in the year, factories added back jobs in October for the third straight month and manufacturing employment rose to its highest level since February 2009. Sticking to the goods-producing sectors, construction employment reached something of a milestone in October as the industry added about 300 jobs during the month. The net increase in jobs month-to-month wasn't the big story, however. The real news was that construction employment in October was higher than last October’s reading by about 200 jobs. It was the first year-over-year increase in construction employment in the state since August 2007, which confirmed many anecdotal reports that suggested the industry was in a mild recovery. Before popping the champagne corks, however, one should keep in mind that construction employment was still off by about 51,000 from its October 2006 peak of 128,000 jobs. One of the few areas of weakness in the most recent report was the business and professional services sector, which lost 300 jobs in October, marking the fourth monthly decrease in a row in this important segment.
Looking across the state, employment gains were mostly concentrated in the Greenville and Columbia metro areas, which had 3,800 and 3,100 net new jobs, respectively, in October. Employment was virtually flat in the remaining metropolitan areas.
South Carolina's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped five-tenths in October, following an identical decline the prior month. At 8.6 percent, unemployment in the Palmetto State was at its lowest level in four years. Our Carolinas business activity index edged higher in November, suggesting that the region’s modest economic recovery continued. But the labor demand indicators remained weak, indicating that firms were still reluctant to add workers to their payrolls.