February 10, 2016

SC unemployment rate remains at 5.5 percent

South Carolina’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.5 percent in December, as both the number of South Carolinians working and its total labor force grew by similar amounts.

The number of residents holding jobs increased by slightly more than 10,100 in December, according to new data released Tuesday by the state Department of Employment and Workforce. Meanwhile, the state’s overall labor force (combined total of those working or looking for work) also increased by more than 10,200.

SCDEW data showed the Professional and Business Services sector saw the most seasonally-adjusted growth in December, with a net 5,200-job increase. Trade, Transportation and Utilities also saw a 2,800 net job increase. No jobs sector reported a loss, although Education and Health Services reported the smallest increase at 100 net jobs.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in December 2014. Roughly 78,500 new jobs have been added in the 12 months since, while 23,000 fewer residents are listed as unemployed.

Charleston County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, while Marion County was the highest at 9.3 percent.

Manufacturer to open operations in Lancaster County

A start-up firm that specializes in manufacturing and distributing cushions and pillows announced Monday it plans to establish operations in Lancaster County.

3i Products, Inc., has acquired an existing 27,000-square foot building to house its new operations. The $3 million investment is expected to create 100 new jobs over the next five years, according to a release from the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

The start-up hopes to be fully operational in the second quarter of this year, with hiring for the 100 new positions is expected to begin in April. Those looking to join the 3i Products team should contact ReadySC at www.sctechjobs.com.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved a $150,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant to Lancaster County to assist with the cost of real property improvements related to the project. Additionally, AdvanceSC committed a $50,000 grant to Lancaster County to assist with support of the project.

Plutonium may be headed to nuclear storage site near Aiken

More plutonium may be headed to a temporary nuclear storage site near Aiken.

The U.S. Energy Department plans to ship nearly one ton of plutonium to the Savannah River Site, according to a new report from The State newspaper. The radioactive material comes from Europe, the Pacific Rim and elsewhere and is being shipped to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

The report said the material used in nuclear weapons would be stored at the Savannah River site until the federal government decides on a permanent destination. That’s being complicated as Gov. Nikki Haley and other state leaders are threatening to sue because the government was supposed to have a plan by now.

That plutonium was supposed to be used in an experimental type of reactor, but the project is still years behind schedule.

Swiss flooring manufacturer to hire more than 100 in Barnwell County

The company's existing facility in Barnwell County (Image: KronotexUSA)

The company’s existing facility in Barnwell County (Image: KronotexUSA)

A Swiss company that manufactures laminate flooring says it will hire more than 100 people when it builds a new Barnwell County plant next year.

Swiss Krono Group announced Tuesday that it plans to expand its existing KronotexUSA plant outside the town of Snelling, a community of about 250 people just west of Barnwell. The company announced the new facility will allow it to make a critical element of the floor material, high-density fiberboard (HDF), in-house.

“We’re just thrilled about this $230 million investment in Barnwell County, which doesn’t happen very often in a county the size of Barnwell,” interim director of the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission Jim Gambrell told South Carolina Radio Network.

KronotexUSA says the expansion will allow it to produce 300,000 cubic-meters of HDF per year, which it will use for laminate flooring manufacturing operations. Currently, the company imports HDF to the Barnwell County facility. In total, the company says the project will increase its annual laminate flooring capacity by an additional 8 million square meters. The SC Forestry Commission said KronotexUSA plans to use timber harvested in the Palmetto State.

“We’ve been very happy with the quality of the work force talent here in South Carolina,” former CEO and current board of directors member Norm Voss said in a statement. “And we’re delighted to be able to employ more Americans here in Barnwell and grow our exceptional relationship with the local people, businesses and government.”

Preliminary engineering has been completed and construction is expected to start by mid-2016, with HDF operations to begin by the summer of 2018. Once completed, this expansion will increase KronotexUSA’s Barnwell County’s workforce to 275 employees. Those interested in applying for one of the new positions should visit the company’s “careers” page online.

SC reports lowest unemployment rate since 2001

Crews work to repair a bridge in Fairfield County earlier this fall (Image: SCDOT)

Crews work to repair a flood-damaged bridge in Fairfield County earlier this fall (Image: SCDOT)

South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped in November to 5.5 percent, the lowest rate reported for the state in more than a decade.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) announced Friday the rate declined slightly from 5.6 percent the previous month, as more than 9,100 additional workers landed jobs. The increase led to a record workforce of more than 2.137 million overall. The number of people listed as working in South Carolina has increased by more than 225,000 since January 2005.

SCDEW said the unemployment rate was the lowest reported since August 2001.

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