LAKE WYLIE -- Despite The State Employment Security Commission's report last week showing the highest unemployment figure ever in South Carolina with 227,986 people without jobs, Lake Wylie remains optimistic.
"Locally, we don't have any of those same issues here," said Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce President Susan Bromfield, explaining national, state and even county numbers do not reflect the business community of Lake Wylie. "Our feeling since this whole thing began has been, basically, anybody who wanted to work in Lake Wylie could work."
The commission report released Wednesday showed unemployment rose 1.6 percent in January from December. The overall 10.4 percent January unemployment rate is the highest since April 1983 at 10.7 percent. The statistic also is considerably higher than the national figure, up to 7.6 percent in January from 7.2 percent in December. York County ranks No. 27 out of 46 counties statewide with 12.8 percent in January, up 2.9 percent from December with the sixth biggest jump in the state.
Still, Bromfield said some resumes do come into the chamber, but mostly people are looking to join the community rather than long-time residents losing jobs. A few businesses have closed, but not many, she said.
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"As for our members and the businesses here, I think most everything here remained pretty stable," Bromfield said. "In Lake Wylie, typically it's small, efficient staffs anyway."
Other positive signs locally, she said, include retail giants such as Lowe's Home Improvement, which opened in November with 100 jobs, and seasonal employers, such as Camp Thunderbird that will begin hiring soon. Plus, unlike some communities, the two largest local employers are staples -- energy provider Catawba Nuclear Station and Clover School District.
"They have to keep all those employees in place," Bromfield said.
Still, the Employment Security Commission stated it is "practically all industry divisions experiencing substantial losses," and the state is down 76,100 jobs from January 2008.
The outlook in North Carolina isn't much better. The Employment Security Commission of North Carolina also released data wit employment dropping 1.6 percent from December to January, standing at 9.7 percent. That rate is the highest mark since it reached 10 percent in March 1983.
The largest decreases came in manufacturing (11,500 jobs) and construction (10,300), while financial activities had the highest increase with 1,200 new hires. The commission expects to release information Thursday on unemployment at the county level.
"I would have to say the climate in eastern Gaston County is somewhat similar to what you're seeing around the country," said Ted Hall, executive director of the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce in Belmont. "There's a lot of apprehension about the economy. We're suffering significant job losses here, which has certainly colored our outlook."
Major hits such as job losses at Freightliner in Mount Holly and the "bedrock" of Stowe Mills in Belmont, a local business with a century of area industry, are hurting, Hall said.
Still, he said, there are signs of hope. People come into Hall's office daily asking about buying homes, leading him to believe when the housing market and lending turn around, the area will come out of the economic funk quicker than other areas.
"At the same time there's reason for optimism," Hall said. "There are new business start-ups. It's a little bit of a contradiction."
In both Carolinas, that type of turnaround would be welcomed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only Michigan ranks worse than South Carolina in unemployment. Both Carolinas tied for the largest jobless rate increases from last year with 4.7 percent.