South Carolina’s unemployment rate is one of the worst in the nation at 11.5 percent. But it’s even worst in some highly industrial areas across the country, leading to an unexpected result.
Chairman of the Board of Economic Advisers John Rainey says the rate is worse than it might be because a number of unemployed workers from the midwest and northeast have flocked to Southern states hoping to find employment.
All totaled, 244,000 workers have moved into the state over the past year for various reasons, according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
Rainey says the figures concerning economic development are actually good but the influx of people bumps up the unemployment figure. “One thing that hurts is, until you stop the music, you can’t stop the problem,” said Rainey. “We keep bringing in more people, which adds to unemployment roles. So even though we show first in capital expenditure and capitol added, we can’t get this unemployment down. And you also need to realize that the national national employment level is only 7.5 percent unemployment.”
Rainey says expectations about the unemployment rate have changed over the years. “When I was young, the national standard was 7 percent but that changed to 5 percent during the Reagan years and post-Reagan years. Techology has replaced a lot of jobs now.”
Economist Rebecca Gunlaughsson with the South Carolina Department of Commerce says they have learned that 25 percent of workers in the state who filed as unemployed didn’t indicate a level of education. She says that’s unfortunate and should be corrected, because the state needs as much information about unemployed workers as possible to better serve them. Dr. Gunnlaugsson says groups of jobless workers are not the same and should not be treated the same, and she says just being sent a monthly check may not be enough to make a real difference in some cases.
“We were very surprised that, from a statewide standpoint, there were more claimants with some post-secondary education than there were high-school dropouts,” said Gunnlaugsson. “Certain geographic areas may have the opposite problem. What it pointed out to us is that we need to focus, not just on one segment of the unemployed population, but we need to provide programs that offer a wide-variety of skills for claimants.”