SC unemployment rises to 12.1 percent for October

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2009 1:00 PM

The unemployment rate in South Carolina rose nearly half a percentage point in October, returning to a record level of 12.1 percent set earlier this year, the state agency that calculates the rate said Friday.

The Employment Security Commission also said it had revised September's rate up 0.1 percentage points, to 11.7. Nationally, South Carolina's unemployment again ranked fifth-highest in the country, behind Michigan (15.1), Nevada (13.0), Rhode Island (12.9) and Colorado (12.5), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

South Carolina's 12.1 percent, which tied the state's record unemployment first reached this summer, marked a decline after several months of relative stability. Don Schunk, a research economist at Coastal Carolina University, said he had been expecting the unemployment rate to march upward and thinks the trend will continue, as people continue to search for jobs.

"I expect that we are now embarking on another string of increases in unemployment as labor force levels remain relatively steady," Schunk said. "The recession may be over, but this does not mean we are on a path of sustained recovery."

The number of unemployed people in South Carolina went up by nearly 10,000 in October, to about 263,000, according to figures released by the commission. The state's overall job count was down 60,500 from a year ago. It's nearly 95,000 below December 2007, when the recession began.

The state's biggest job losses came in the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors, which lost a combined 7,200 jobs. Meanwhile, business services, government and retail saw a combined 10,400 in gains. Allendale County had the state's highest jobless rate, at 22 percent. Unemployment was lowest in Lexington County, at 8.6 percent.

Last month, state legislators returned to Columbia to pass a bill extending jobless benefits to about 15,000 workers who had begun running out of weekly state and federal help. The technical change links extended unemployment benefits to the state's unemployment rate instead of the number of people who are getting benefits, and Gov. Mark Sanford signed the bill into law the next day.

Last spring, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg pushed for the technical law change that would have continued benefits, but her standalone bill went nowhere. The measure, which was tacked to a bill overhauling the commission, was stymied by legislators who didn't want the commission changed until it had been reviewed by the Legislative Audit Council and lawmakers irked by Sanford's opposition to federal stimulus cash.

That council's review is due early next year, but House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham said legislators plan to begin mulling changes before the end of the year.