New data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests South Carolina’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate to 5.7 percent in March from 5.5 percent in February, marking the first time the state’s jobless rate has increased since September 2014.
But state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) officials say the slight increase is not a major concern, because the rate was driven up by new individuals entering the workforce seeking a job.
“The effects of our robust economy are evident as more people are finding jobs than any time in state history, and an even larger number are deciding it is time to enter or re-enter the job market,” SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said in a statement. “However, there is more work ahead of us as there are 67,700 unfilled jobs across the state. We need to continue developing a pipeline of skilled workers to address the growing workforce needs of our current and future employers.”
More than two-thirds of the state’s labor force expansion was due to employment growth. The number of individuals working increased in March by 12,079 to a record level of 2,17 million. Unemployed individuals also increased by more than 5,800 to roughly 131,000 overall, while the labor force set a record for the highest ever monthly increase of 17,930. More than 2,3 million people made up South Carolina’s labor force in March, the data showed.
Over the past year, employment gains tallied nearly 69,000 and the level of unemployed has decreased by 12,500. The labor force had an over-the-year growth of more than 56,000 people.
Agency spokesman Robert Bouyea said it is also the time of year that normally sees an increase of people looking for jobs. “College students are thinking about looking for a job, summer jobs and other types of opportunities are coming forward,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector saw the largest increase from February to March with 3,900 additional employees, according to the report. Professional and Business Services also saw an increase of 3,800 net jobs last month. The only sector to lose jobs in South Carolina last month was Manufacturing, which drained a net 100 jobs.
Charleston and Lexington counties had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.6 percent. Allendale County had the highest at 9.8 percent.