South Carolina's Labor Market Continued to Heal in November
Labor market conditions continued to improve in South Carolina during November, with positive changes in both payroll employment and the unemployment rate. These firming conditions came at the same time that our Carolinas Survey of Business Activity Survey pointed toward a slowdown in the region's economic expansion, a development that was accompanied by less optimistic hiring plans.
Employers in South Carolina augmented their payrolls with approximately 6,600 net new workers in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was the third straight month of significant job gains that saw the state's employment level rise by a combined 27,700 jobs. The government sector was a contributor to the recent labor market improvement, as it added 8,100 workers over the last three months, 1,800 of those in November. However, the bulk of new job creation took place in the private sector. On the goods producing side, manufacturing firms hired 1,400 net new workers in November. After going through a hiring lull in the second quarter, factories have been adding workers for the past four months. By contrast, construction employment is not recovering at all. Construction-related firms shed about 300 jobs during November.
Turning to the services-providing sector, the biggest job gain outside of government took place in the leisure and hospitality industry, as firms engaged in that sector hired an additional 2,000 net workers. It was the fourth monthly increase in a row. Outside of leisure and hospitality, employment growth among service providers was widespread, albeit more modest. Private education and health services firms — among the most reliable contributors to the state’s jobs recovery — contributed another 1,000 net jobs in November. The next largest positive contribution to employment growth during the month came from the professional and business services sector, which saw 600 net new positions. While any increase is welcome, the gains realized in professional and business services have been disappointing throughout 2012 when compared to national averages, as well as to its own performance earlier in the recovery. If South Carolina payroll employment is to continue rising in 2013, it will need to see a bigger contribution from this important industry. The "other services" segment pitched in 400 jobs to November's total. Information services employment was flat during the month, while financial activities was the only service-providing industry to show a decline over the month, as firms shed about 400 positions compared to October.
South Carolina's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continued on a downward trend in November, as it decreased three-tenths to 8.3 percent. The Palmetto State's unemployment rate was down for the fourth straight month and was at its lowest since October 2008. The broad-based improvement in labor market conditions comes at a time when respondents to our Carolinas Survey of Business Activity were becoming more cautious about their hiring plans as business conditions appeared to deteriorate. It looks as though uncertainty may hamper hiring in the Carolinas in the coming months.