November 26, 2015

State unemployment rate drops to lowest level since recession

Crews prepare to repave flood-damaged roads in Clarendon County (Image: SCDOT)

Crews prepare to repave flood-damaged roads in Clarendon County (Image: SCDOT)

The newest jobs numbers released Friday show South Carolina recorded its lowest unemployment rate in more than eight years last month, but still trails the overall national average.

South Carolina’s 5.6 percent jobless rate dropped slightly from 5.7 percent in September, according to the latest data released Friday by the state Department of Employment and Workforce. That is the lowest rate South Carolina has seen since June 2007, just before the country dipped into the housing crisis and eventual recession.

The number of jobs increased at a faster pace than population growth. South Carolina saw nearly 7,900 additional residents listed as “employed” in October, combined with nearly 2,400 fewer listed on unemployment rolls. Meanwhile, the state’s overall labor force added nearly 5,400 more people in October.

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South Carolinians to see fewer taxes withheld from paychecks after next year

Department of Revenue Director Rick Reames (Image: SCDOR)

Department of Revenue Director Rick Reames (Image: SCDOR)

South Carolina tax officials say they will soon begin reducing the amount of income taxes that are withheld from individual paychecks.

State Department of Revenue Director Rick Reames said his agency had been using outdated tables that led them to withhold too much money that taxpayers were later getting back through refunds the following year. The State newspaper first reported the change on Wednesday.

“The state of South Carolina has been over-withholding from taxpayers for about 25 years,” he said. “This puts the money in peoples’ hands throughout the year rather than having them make an interest-free loan to the government — only to have the government refund it to them in the spring when they file their tax return.”

Reames said the agency is phasing in new tables over the next decade. The new system will begin in January 2017.

The first year would give a married couple with two children and a taxable income of more than $10,000 an extra $73 a year. That amount would steadily increase over the next decade. The same couple would see $365 more in their paychecks in Year 5 and $730 more in Year 10. Reames said he hopes the phase-in will help ease the situation for taxpayers who upon large refunds each spring when planning their finances.

Besides the impact on taxpayers, Reames said state government also benefits because the current system creates “artificially high” revenue collections that end up dropping in the spring as the money is refunded. “That’s just bad business,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s not stable and it needs to be updated.”

He also hoped it would reduce tax refund fraud, by creating much smaller refunds for potential identity thieves to steal.

Wells Fargo to move 350 employees from Charlotte to Fort Mill

Wells Fargo is moving a key part of its operations across the border into South Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer reports the California-based bank is moving its mortgage servicing operations from Charlotte to an existing site in Fort Mill. About 350 employees will be involved in the move, but no layoffs are expected. The transition is expected to begin early next year.

Wells Fargo described the move as part of “ongoing efforts to efficiently manage our office space” in a statement to the paper.

The bank said it will continue to have other mortgage operations in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Wells Fargo is one of the region’s largest employers with more than 23,000 workers.

Mortgage servicing operations have been victims of layoffs for the past year as rising interest rates have resulted in fewer customers refinancing their loans. The company announced 132 layoffs at its mortgage division in October.

South Carolina cuts 2016 Unemployment Tax Rate

For the second consecutive year, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) plans to cut the Unemployment Insurance (UI) tax rate, saying it will save businesses more than $151 million over that period.

Earlier this year, SCDEW announced it had paid off a nearly $1 billion federal loan needed after the state’s unemployment trust fund was depleted during the recession. SCDEW spokesman Bob Bouyea told South Carolina Radio Network that the lower UI taxes are a result of the loan now being paid off. “We reduced it last year as well, because we saw that we were on track of paying off that loan,” he said.

The state had borrowed $977.7 million to stabilize its insolvent Unemployment Trust Fund after thousands of residents lost their jobs during the 2008 economic crash and recession.  SCDEW has been paying that amount back over the last four years.

Bouyea said early and voluntary payments on the loan between 2011 and 2015 helped pay it off more quickly than initially planned, saving businesses more than $12 million in interest payments. “What it means is that we are saving South Carolina businesses some money that they can put back into their businesses,” he said.

South Carolina was one of 36 states to take out loans during the recession’s aftermath, but was one of the first to pay it back ahead of schedule.

Deadlines approaching for Disaster Unemployment Assistance

The deadlines to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance are nearing for 19 of the 24 counties that have been declared eligible for individual assistance by FEMA.

“What we have coming up here of the twenty-four counties that have been declared for individual assistance, nineteen are of those coming due, the filing deadline is next week,” South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce spokesman Bob Bouyea said.

The DUA program makes funds available to assist those who became unemployed as a direct result of the floods. It also is available to small business owners and the self-employed, including 1099 contract workers, who lost personal income due to the disaster.

Wednesday Nov. 4 is the deadline for: Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Williamsburg counties.

Thursday Nov. 5: Berkeley, Clarendon and Sumter counties.

Friday Nov. 6: Calhoun, Darlington, Florence, Kershaw and Lee counties.

Saturday Nov. 7: Bamberg, Colleton and Greenwood counties.

Thursday Nov. 12: Newberry County.

Thursday November 19: Fairfield and Marion counties.

Thursday November 26: Greenville and Spartanburg counties.