November 23, 2014

SC unemployment rate up as labor force grows to record size

Construction workersSouth Carolina’s unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent in October as more people joined the labor force at a faster rate than jobs were available.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) reported Friday that the estimated number of unemployed rose by almost 2,300 people in October over a month earlier. However, the data also showed that the labor force increased by 9,500 people in that span, which the agency said marked a historic high of nearly 2.2 million in the labor force. The number of estimated working South Carolinians increased by nearly 7,200 in that span.

“In October, South Carolina’s labor force hit an all-time high with an estimated 2.2 million people employed or actively looking for work,” SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said in an emailed statement. “As the state’s economy continues to grow, South Carolinians are seeking new employment opportunities. DEW will work with job seekers to match them with the more than 65,000 available jobs.”

According to SCDEW, the manufacturing sector, along with Education and Health Services, saw large bumps (more than 2,000 net jobs each), while other sectors remained stagnant.

Marion County registered the highest unemployment rate at 11.3 percent, while Lexington and Saluda counties tied for the lowest rate at 5.1 percent.

Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased to 5.8 percent in October from 5.9 percent in September.

The rate is still slightly below what it was a year ago, when it was 7 percent in October 2013. SCDEW said the state’s labor force has increased by nearly 18,800 people since that time.

Economists predict state budget will increase next year



State economists predict South Carolina’s government will have nearly $300 million more in revenues to spend next year.

The State newspaper is reporting that the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors projects the state’s General Fund will have about $7.5 billion for regular budget expenditures for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015. That’s a roughly four percent increase from this current fiscal year’s estimated $7.2 billion. The state’s general fund budget is made up mostly of sales tax, personal and corporate income tax and is counted separately from federal funds.

Board of Economic Advisors chairman Chad Walldorf said the $283 million difference is largely due to an improving employment picture that means more overall income for South Carolinians. That, in turns, means more taxable wages for the state, he added.

Lawmakers rely on the BEA’s predictions when drafting the next year’s budget. The state legislature will begin work on the budget for the coming year when they return to the Statehouse in January.

As part of a government restructuring bill that passed earlier this year, the Board of Economic Advisors moved from the now-dissolved Budget & Control Board to the new Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. Of the board’s three members, one is appointed by the governor, one by the Senate Finance Committee chair, and another by the House Ways & Means Committee chairman.

Unemployment tax rate drops as SC close to paying off $977 million loan

SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton (FILE)

SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton (FILE)

South Carolina officials say most businesses will see lower unemployment insurance tax rates next year.

According to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW), unemployment insurance rates for 2015, which employers pay the state to help maintain a trust fund for jobless benefits, will drop by approximately 9%. That rate has dropped steadily the past four years as SCDEW gradually repaid a $977 million loan provided by the federal government after South Carolina’s unemployment trust fund went bankrupt in 2009.

South Carolina revamped its employer tax rates in 2011 to help pay of the debt — charging higher rates for those larger employers which had laid off employees, but dropping the rates for a majority of businesses. The state also reduced the number of weeks a person can receive benefits to reduce their costs. Since then, SCDEW officials say the tax rates on employers have dropped by more than 20 percent.

“The economy continues to improve, South Carolinians continue to find work and tax rates continue to decline,” SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said in a statement. “This is truly a testament to the efforts of our state’s business community and workforce development. Because of its hard work, the UI trust fund is on a path to solvency in 2015.”

South Carolina still owes $270 million outstanding on the balance of the federal loan. Stanton anticipated the agency would be able to pay off the balance next year.

SC jobless rate rises for third straight month

worker thumbnailSouth Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 6.6 percent in September, according to new data released by the state’s employment agency on Tuesday. That was up from a revised August level of 6.3 percent.

That bucked the trend nationwide, as the overall U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 5.9 percent in September from 6.1 percent in August.

The data released by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce suggested that a slight growth in jobs was canceled out by much larger increase in the labor force, meaning more unemployed workers. SCDEW reported the number of South Carolinians working ticked up by 2,500 in September. but the labor force increased over the same month by nearly 9,000 people. The number of unemployed people in the state was slightly over 144,000, an increase of 6,400 from September

Since September 2013, a net of roughly 21,000 people have found work and the labor force has increased by nearly 6,700. The state’s unemployment rate has declined by 0.7 percentage points since September 2013.


Candidates for SC education chief agree on most topics, except Common Core

Molly Spearman

Molly Spearman (Image: SCETV)

Two of the candidates running for South Carolina’s next schools chief agreed on more than they disagreed during a televised debate Monday.

Republican candidate Molly Spearman and her Democratic opponent Tom Thompson met for 30 minutes in the education superintendent’s debate on SCETV. American Party nominee Ed Murray was not invited because he did not meet the debate criteria. All three are vying to replace current superintendent Mick Zais, who did not seek reelection this year.

The candidates agreed that South Carolina’s current education funding formula needs to change. Spearman, the executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, said the state’s current formula dates back to an era when each town had its own textile mill. “That no longer exists, so for the past almost 50 years now we have been patching the formula,” she said. “And it has gotten so complex and so divided, there’s so many strings of funding, that few people understand it.”

Thompson, a former South Carolina State University education dean who is now a consultant, said the problem is the mindset of state leaders who have allowed “minimally adequate” to become synonymous with education funding. “The superintendent may have to bring public pressure to convince the legislature that the needs of the children, the needs of the public education system, should be a priority for the state,” he said.

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