While some state officials are calling for more emphasis on industrial recruitment to help cure the unemployment woes, an economist with the South Carolina Department of Commerce says more development is not always the answer to change unemployment figures.
Dr. Rebecca Gunnlaugsson says instead of responding to the same old stereotypes, guessing at problems and devising solutions to guesses, they have gathered data to find what the real problems are. Gunlaugsson says economic development is not a panacea nor cause of the jobless issue.
“While economic development is a key factor,” said Gunnlaugsson, “it’s not the panacea. It’s not going to cure unemployment and at the same time it’s not the cause.”
Gunnlaugsson says the real problem lies in a number of underlying causes including a need to better serve the unemployed and connect them with jobs and training. She says South Carolina is already very competitive in terms of recruiting companies to the state. “We have low cost of business, generally,” she said. “We have a lot of economic factors which encourage businesses to come here. Compared to other southeastern states, we have attracted more jobs and more investment per capita, but at the same time we still have the sixth highest unemployment in the nation.”
Governor Mark Sanford continues to push for an overhaul of the Employment Security Commission, while Employment Security Commission officials say that the state needs more industry.
A separate study of more than 150 plant managers located in the upstate revealed that there is a shortage of skilled workers. To Gunnlaugsson’s Commerce Department study, Upstate Chamber Coalition Vice President John DeWorken responded that South Carolina officials can never stop efforts to help existing businesses expand or to bring in new ones.
“To her point I would say that it’s vitally important that for K through 12 and beyond,” said Deworken, “that we are able to offer programs to increase the skill set of our workers, and also that our workers take personal responsibility for themselves, taking advantage of what is available to them to increase their skill set.”