April 24, 2014

SC unemployment rate drops again in March

South Carolina’s unemployment trended to its lowest point ever in six years. According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, in March the state’s  seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fdecreased to 5.5 percent from February’s rate of 5.7 percent.

The last time the Palmetto State’s rate was at this level was in March 2008.

From February to March 2014, the number of unemployed persons declined by 5,077, to a level of 119,058. The estimated number of employed persons in March was 2,046,002, up 6,560 since February. This is the eighth consecutive monthly increase. From March 2013 to March 2014, an estimated 32,555 people have found work.

The labor force increased slightly in March, up by 1,483 to 2,165,060. Since March 2013 the labor force has declined by nearly 23,982 people, in part because of an increasing number of retirees in South Carolina.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent in March.

South Carolina compared to national – through Feb. 2014

South Carolina monthly unemployment rate chart from 1990 to February 2014



BMW announces $1 billion expansion at Greer plant

BMW executives revealed the new X4, which will be assembled at the Greer plant beginning later this year (Image: BMW)

BMW executives revealed the new X4, which will be assembled at the Greer plant beginning later this year (Image: BMW)

BMW on Friday officially announced that its new X7 SUV model will be built at its Greer plant.

The company said the $1 billion expansion is expected to create 800 new jobs. The addition of a fifth model assembled at the plant will increase production capacity from 350,000 units to 450,000 units annually, making the Spartanburg County facility the highest-capacity plant in BMW’s global system by the end of 2016.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Gov. Nikki Haley joined BMW Group Board of Management for Friday’s announcement.

“We love Germany, but South Carolina is now the BMW capital of the world,” Haley said after the event. “And that is a title we will hold proudly.”

The Greer plant is the corporation’s sole North American assembly plant and already assembles the similar X3, X5, and X6 models. Work on the X4, which was unveiled for the first time on Friday, gets underway later this year.

Unlike the previous models, the X7 Sports Activity Vehicle will have a third row of seats.

Chairman of BMW’s Board of Management Dr.-Ing Norbert Reithofer said over 207,000 vehicles were manufactured in Greer last year — or about 1,100 per day.

The assembly plant is in its 20th year of operation.

SC jobless rate drops to 5.7 percent

South Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 5.7 percent in February from the January estimate of 6.4 percent.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) stated in a news release that the 0.7 percent drop is the largest one-month decrease ever recorded since this kind of data reporting began in 1976. The jobless rate in February 2013 was 8.1 percent. The 2.4 percentage point decrease is the quickest of any state nationwide.

The national rate for February was 6.7 percent. South Carolina is tied with Maryland for the 17th-lowest unemployment rate in the country. In February 2010, South Carolina’s unemployment rate was fifth-highest in the nation at 11.6 percent.

Other data released by DEW:

-The number of South Carolinians working continues to increase—rising for the seventh consecutive month, up by 8,435 in February—to a historic high of 2,039,455.

-The estimated number of unemployed persons declined by 13,895, also the largest ever one-month drop, to 124,373.

-The labor force declined by 5,460 to 2,163,828. Those employed increased by 28,226 since February 2013.

The unemployment rate dropped in every county, including the three counties with the highest unemployment rates

Marion County ? 10,902    CURRENT RATE: 10.6
Allendale County ? 3,070 CURRENT RATE: 10.5
Bamberg County ? 5,455  CURRENT RATE: 9.2

Lexington County had the best rate at 4.0 percent.


SC unemployment rate drops in January, lowest in almost 6 years

South Carolina’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has declined for an eighth consecutive month, according to the state Department of Workforce (SCDEW).

SCDEW announced Monday that unemployment among South Carolina’s workforce was 6.4 percent in January, down from December’s rate of 6.6 percent. The number of employed South Carolinians grew by over 5,000 from December, while the state’s labor force grew by about 1,000 people, according to SCDEW. The number of unemployed South Carolinians declined by almost 4,000.

January’s rate is the lowest reported in South Carolina since June 2008.

State officials said December was the first time in more than a decade that South Carolina’s unemployment had been below the national rate. In January, the number of employed people in South Carolina reached a record high of nearly 2,031,000. That’s an increase of more than 22,000 people over the past year. But the labor force also declined by a little over 20,000 workers in that span.

The biggest gains in January were reported in Professional and Business Services, with a net gain of 1,100 new employees. The largest decline was in construction at a loss of 1,700 jobs. Non-agricultural jobs in South Carolina went down by 4,800 in January but are up by 37,000 compared to a year ago.

Most of the data released Monday are seasonally-adjusted. 43 of South Carolina’s 46 counties actually reported a net increase in unemployed workers when the numbers were not seasonally-adjusted.

Continental Tire opens Sumter plant to much fanfare

Image: Continental Tire

Construction crews put the finishing touches on the plant last month (Image: Continental Tire)

Continental Tire opened its all-new manufacturing plant in Sumter on Tuesday.

The company invested more than $500 million into the Sumter plant and has hired 400 people so far. Continental hopes to eventually create about 1,600 new jobs.

Continental executives hope to make approximately 5 million units per year at the 500-acre facility by 2017. Continental hopes the plant will have 570 total employees by the end of 2014.

“The opening of this plant is a very important milestone for our goal of growing our tire business in the United States,” Nikolai Setzer, head of parent company Continental AG’s global tire business, said. “This beautiful new facility contains the highest level of machinery and technology to produce the best car and light truck tires possible. And, most importantly, we began to produce tires three months ahead of schedule.”

Derek Burress

Craig Baartman, plant manager of Continental Tire the Americas’ (CTA) Sumter facility.

Gov. Nikki Haley joined other dignitaries for the opening ceremony, which was held inside the plant and thus avoided the bitter cold 35 degree temperature outside. State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, called the new plant a “game-changer” for Sumter. “This is one of the largest investments we’ve had by any company in Sumter County,” he told WDXY Radio. “So this is a very proud day. It’s a partnership we started three years ago and now is coming to fruition.”

Continental rolled out its first test tires last year. The plant is expected to be completely built and fully operational by 2021.

Derek Burress of WDXY-AM in Sumter contributed to this report