April 2, 2015

South Carolina makes early $75 million unemployment trust fund loan payment

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce made an early payment of $75 million to the federal government toward the agency’s unemployment trust fund loan.

“What this means is that the loan balance is now at $120 million,” Director of Information Services of the  department,  Adrienne Fairwell told South Carolina Radio Network Monday.

With the early payment the state will not have to pay as much interest. “And saves South Carolina approximately $1.3 million in interest because the loan payment was made early,” Fairwell said.

“When the 2014 unemployment tax rate was set, the federal government estimated 1,968,209 South Carolinians were employed. As of December, 2,069,190 people were earning paychecks in the state, leading to additional tax collections,” Fairwell said in explaining the savings in interest.

In addition, South Carolina paid about $80.7 million less in unemployment benefits between January 2014 and December 2014 compared with the same time frame in the previous year.

South Carolina experienced record-high employment throughout 2014, as benefit payouts continue to decline monthly enabling this $75 million early payment to be possible.

The state borrowed $977 million from the federal government during the depths of the Great Recession to cover unemployment checks that were being paid to out-of-work South Carolinians. To date, South Carolina has repaid more than $857 million of that loan.


South Carolina jobless rate stays at 6.6% for third straight month

SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton (FILE)

SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said a record number of people held jobs in South Carolina last month (FILE)

Roughly 10,000 more South Carolinians were listed as having jobs in February than a month earlier, but a corresponding increase in unemployed residents meant the overall jobless rate remained 6.6 percent last month, according to new data released Friday.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) reported 2.09 million people were listed as “employed” in February, which the agency says is a record high. That was up from a reported 2.08 million in January. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed residents increased from nearly 147,000 to 148,400.

South Carolina dropped slightly further behind the national average, which fell from 5.7 percent unemployment in January to 5.5 percent last month. South Carolina’s unemployment rate was a half-percentage point higher than in February 2014, when it was reported to be 6.1 percent. But the labor force has also increased by nearly 70,000 jobs since then.

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Study: SC facing shortfall of over 100,000 workers with college degrees

Francis Marion University (File)

Francis Marion University (File)

A new report released Tuesday predicts that South Carolina will be short more than 114,000 college graduates by 2030 — roughly the same number of people who live in the cities of Greenville and Spartanburg combined– if no changes occur.

Competing Through Knowledge, the SC Business Leaders Higher Education Council project that released the report, revealed information that calculates the state’s workforce will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 skilled graduates for the most in-demand career fields.

The report is based on a study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. Research economists Dr. Doug Woodward and Dr. Joey Von Nessen calculated the state will lack 70,540 graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to these graduates, there will also be a shortage of 44,010 workers with two-year degrees.

In its analysis of those findings, Competing Through Knowledge highlighted proposals that would put more students through college. Some of those ideas include rebates for students in fields with the greatest market needs and financial aid for students with poor and middle-class backgrounds. It also suggest more accessible online courses and additional higher education funding from the state.

“We wanted to make sure that South Carolina had the type of workforce that it needed to satisfy the job market not just this year and next year, but for the next 15 years,” former Gov. Jim Hodges, who is helping lead the initiative, told South Carolina Radio Network.

The study notes the gap already exists: data from the National Skills Coalition found 57 percent of South Carolina’s jobs in 2012 required “middle skills” (some education after high school, but not a 4-year college degree), while only 47 percent of the state’s workforce was at that skill level. The same study also predicted 53 percent of new jobs would require “middle skills.”

The report recommends finding ways to increase the number of graduates in several fields — especially science, math, and healthcare. In particular, the report estimated an additional 44,000 healthcare workers will be needed by 2030.

State unemployment rate stays at 6.6 percent

Image: Aiken Electric Cooperative

Image: Aiken Electric Cooperative

South Carolina’s unemployment rate remained at 6.6 percent in January, according to new data released by the state’s workforce agency Tuesday, as the number of residents with jobs increased by roughly the same amount as the state’s workforce.

The rate is still higher than the national average of 5.7 percent.

The latest job numbers released  by the state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) on Tuesday showed a seasonally-adjusted 11,000 additional South Carolinians were employed than in December 2014. The state’s labor force also increased by a similar amount in that span. The number of unemployed workers remained roughly 147,000.

SCDEW said the estimated 2.08 million employed workers in January was a state record.

More than 54,000 more people are listed as employed in January than were at the same time one year ago. However, the number of jobless workers also increased as the labor force grew at a slightly faster clip. South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent one year earlier.

The large monthly growth in seasonally-adjusted jobs was Leisure and Hospitality, with an estimated 3,100-employee increase from December. Manufacturing suffered the biggest losses, with 1,700 fewer jobs in January. However, the total manufacturing jobs that month was still higher than in January 2014.

South Carolina agencies launch initiative to help defense firms diversify

South Carolina National Guard photo.

South Carolina National Guard photo.

South Carolina is launching a new program aimed at helping defense-related businesses in the state broaden into new markets should they be affected by upcoming Defense Department cuts.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) and the Department of Commerce have partnered to launch a “defense firm diversification initiative.” The initiative offers business consulting services to applying firms that could be adversely impacted by Department of Defense (DOD) budget cuts.

A Commerce Department release announced the support program will assist defense firms in reducing their dependency on DOD procurement activity by encouraging them to diversify into other growing industries, primarily the aerospace and automotive industries. By diversifying portfolios, the goal is that South Carolina-based contractors will be impacted less by cuts in federal defense spending.

“South Carolina is proud to be called the most patriotic state in America, and taking care of our eight military installations and the businesses that serve them is important to us,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement. “With these two jobs agencies collaborating, programs like this one will help make sure that defense contractors continue to operate successfully and grow jobs in our state.”

Under the program, firms in the state with DOD contracts may apply for consulting services in four areas: strategic planning, sales and marketing, lean product development and quality certifications. The South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP), Dilks-Simone Enterprises, Inc. and kglobal have been selected as approved vendors to provide consulting services for defense firms in South Carolina.

According to a recently released report commissioned by the South Carolina Military Base Task Force, there are more than 600 defense-contracting firms in the state. Average wages for employees involved in the defense industry are around $47,280, 21 percent higher than the state’s average income of $38,990, according to data derived from the report.

“Our defense firms play a vital role in supporting the missions of our military, but they also bring big impact to our state’s economy,” said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said in a statement. “With our growing aerospace and automotive sectors, there are more and more opportunities for defense-related businesses to expand into new areas.”

DEW is administering the program with a $700,000 defense industry assistance grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment within the DOD. An eligible firm selected for the program could receive up to $75,000 in the value of services. Funds must be expended by August 31, 2015.

“South Carolina is serious about being the most military-friendly state in the nation,” DEW Director Cheryl Stanton said in a statement. “This new partnership with the Department of Commerce will ensure that defense-focused employers are able to diversify their products and markets so they continue to thrive in the Palmetto State. Proactively working with businesses to diversify their economic opportunities is integral to creating a prosperous economic future for workers, jobseekers and businesses.”

Interested defense-related firms may access the application online. Click here to download or find the application in Commerce’s publications directory . Eligible firms must first conduct an assessment that evaluates the product or service offering, the manufacturing or service process, finance, sales, marketing, and quality control. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the grant funds are fully committed.