April 20, 2015

Port of Charleston tops pre-recession levels

The Port of Charleston is posting numbers topping pre- recession levels, thanks in large part to one customer — BMW.

Photo courtesy of SPA

Photo courtesy of SPA

The Charleston Post and Courier reports that the German automaker, with its American plant about 200 miles away in Greer, is sending between 800 and 1,000 vehicles every day, seven days a week, to Charleston. On average eight ships a month go to Europe, and three to Asia. The port stacked as many as 10,000 vehicles at a terminal at one point this month.

Exports, mainly BMWs, account for nearly one-third of the value of all exports leaving South Carolina, according to the state Commerce Department.

The $9.2 billion worth of passenger car exports in 2014 is up more than 21 percent from 2013 and is 10 times higher than at the start of the decade.South Carolina now is the nation’s top exporter of passenger vehicles.

BMW recorded an 8.1 percent jump in sales during the first quarter of 2015, compared to a year ago, with 526,669 vehicles delivered. The Greer plant, which opened in 1994, recently celebrated its 3 millionth vehicle.

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.