UNION COUNTY — The end of the holiday season and the laying off of seasonal employees helped push up Union County’s unemployment rate in December.
The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce announced this month that South Carolina’s “seasonally adjusted unemployment rate” increased from 8.3 percent in November to 8.4 percent in December. This was still lower than the state’s December 2011 unemployment rate which stood at 9.6 percent.
The increase in the unemployment rate was attributed to a decline in employment in the leisure and hospitality industries and in the government sector and service industries. The SCDEW reports that employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 5,900 jobs “due to a drop in demand for arts, entertainment and recreation, as well as accommodation and food services.” Demand for government and employment services was also down in December resulting in a drop of 2,300 government and 1,700 business and professional service jobs.
There was, however, job growth in the trade, transportation and utilities (2,400), education and health services (1,100), construction (700). There was more modest growth in the financial activities (300) and information (100) sectors. The SCDEW also reported that demand remained high in the retail sector and employment in the health care industry “continued in a positive direction” in December.
SCDEW Executive Director Abraham J. Turner said that while there was an increase in unemployment in December the state’s overall job growth was encouraging.
“Typically, we see a small decrease in employment in December because of seasonal declines in the leisure and hospitality, professional and business, and government sectors,” Turner said. “Nonetheless, I am encouraged as the state’s overall job growth trend throughout 2012 was a pace similar to historic levels before the recent recession. This is welcomed news as we move forward in 2013, when DEW will continue partnering closely with businesses and job seekers to put South Carolinians back to work.”
Nationally, the SCDEW reports that the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent with approximately 28,000 more Americans working and an additional 164,000 people looking for work.
December saw the unemployment rate increase in all but three of South Carolina’s 46 counties. Only Bamberg, Orangeburg, and Calhoun counties saw their unemployment rates decline.
Union County’s unemployment rate increased from 12.6 percent in November to 13.4 percent in December. This was still lower than the county’s December 2011 unemployment rate which stood at 15.2 percent.
Roy Lowe, center manager for the SCWorks Union office, attributed the .8 percent increase in the county’s unemployment rate to layoffs resulting from the end of the Christmas shopping season.
“My best guess would be because of the season hiring,” Lowe said. “They all start to end before Christmas. That’s when you start to see a drop in employment. They release the seasonal help when it gets closer to Christmas. That’s normally across the retail industry. We have not see any significant layoffs otherwise.”
Lowe cautioned that given the small size of its labor force — 11,449 in December — even the shift of a few people from being employed to being unemployed can cause what appears to be a significant rise in unemployment even if there been no major change in the job market.
“Just a few people being laid off or hired changes our numbers,” Lowe said. “It can move our percentage a tenth of a point real easily.”
December was the first time the county’s unemployment rate had increased since reaching a peak of 14.8 in July. Since then, the county’s unemployment rate had fallen to 14.6 percent in August to 13 percent in September to 12.8 percent in October to 12.6 percent in November.
Sixth In Unemployment
Despite the increase, December was the fourth month in a row that Union County’s was the sixth highest unemployment rate in South Carolina. Also in sixth place was Bamberg and Dillon counties which also had unemployment rates of 13.4 percent in December.
The counties with unemployment rates higher than Union County’s in December were Clarendon County (13.5 percent), Barnwell County (13.9 percent), Marlboro County (15.4 percent), Allendale County (15.6 percent), and Marion County (17.2 percent).
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.