South Carolina’s economy continues to be on an uptick, with the state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) reporting the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remaining steady at 5.3 percent in May, the same as April.
Compared with the nation’s jobless rate of 6.3 percent, South Carolina continues to be ahead of the curve of recovering from the recession that began in 2008. University of South Carolina research economist Dr. Douglas Woodward says that is partly to a lower level of workforce participation, but adds the state has turned the corner indicated by significant job growth.
Woodward said to sustain the momentum of recovery, the state and nation needs more startup companies fueled by entrepreneurship. “We’re not seeing a lot of entrepreneurial activity here or across the country,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s still a very tepid economic climate. But we’re definitely not in a recession, so I think that is behind us.”
According to SCDEW figures, an estimated 36,000 South Carolina residents have secured employment since May 2013. But the overall labor force has also decreased by nearly 21,000 in the last 12 months.
Woodward said industries see the state as having a fertile economic climate. He points to the relatively rapid increase in the number of industries choosing to locate in South Carolina, coupled with the expansion of a number of existing companies. Another critical factor is a state government willing to provide incentives for businesses, which he says would include taking steps to encourage startups.
“Last year, the legislature passed a bill to help provide incentives for what they call ‘gazelles,’ these fast growing entrepreneurial oriented firms,” he said. “Over time I think that will work to put financing in place when it is needed.”
According to Forbes Magazine, Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center, and is now the second largest banking center in the United States after New York City. Woodward pointed out that having such a financial center right at the border, can be a potential boon for South Carolina.
A week ago, three companies, Giti Tire, Lash Group and LPL Financial, announced plans to bring a combined 7,100 jobs to South Carolina’s Interstate 77 corridor between Columbia and Charlotte (although some of the Lash and LPL jobs are relocating from elsewhere in the Charlotte area). The total capital investment amounts to an estimated $800 million.