South Carolina's unemployment rate was up in August, a stark contrast to news earlier this week that the Great Recession officially ended more than a year ago.
The state Department of Employment and Workforce said Tuesday that South Carolina's unemployment rate reached 11 percent last month, up from a revised 10.7 percent in July.
Regionally, rates in Chester and Lancaster each increased by .2 percentage points, Chester's to 17.9 percent and Lancaster's to 16.2 percent. York's rate dropped .2 percentage points to 15.4.
Part of the reason for the change was seasonal as the hospitality industry cut jobs because of the end of the summer travel season while schools hired personnel to fill last-minute vacancies.
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Department of Workforce executive director John Finan said there were almost 50,000 open jobs around the state as of Sept. 20. The problem, he said, is matching the skills of the unemployed with the available jobs.
"You look at the last couple of years here in South Carolina, a lot of the mills jobs and factory jobs have gone away," Finan said. "Those folks had those kind of skills for working in factories or mills, but not necessarily the soft skills necessary for someone in a new technology job."
College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said that "structural unemployment" doesn't go away after the recession ends.
"That's the mismatch between the jobs and the candidates and that unfortunately is always a long-term problem," he said. "The jobs that have been lost, will those exact jobs be replaced? That's the question or are other jobs being generated and then the people that lost theirs aren't qualified or in the right location."
Finan said the problem isn't always a worker lacking skills. It also includes people who used to make a lot of money.
"If you've got a vice president, your Department of Labor laws say you can't require them to work in something that's way out of line with something they've normally been," Finan said. "So if the guy had been making $90,000 a year, you can't require him to go take a job for $20,000 a year. ... The law says you have to put them back in jobs that are appropriate and that's both type of job and income level."
But even if all the available jobs were filled, there would still be about 190,000 South Carolinians looking for work. And that, Hefner said, is related to the economy that is still sluggish, despite the news this week from the National Bureau of Economic Research that, based on economic growth numbers, the recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Hefner said. "There's still a lot of reluctance in the market for people to hire. There's too much uncertainty out there."
Although the economy started growing again in the third quarter last year, after four straight quarters of decline, unemployment has not recovered.
South Carolina's jobless rate continued to get worse in the second half of last year, peaking at 12.5 percent in January before improving steadily until this summer.
"It's a classic jobless recovery," Hefner said. "We're going to be playing catch-up until 2013."
In South Carolina, the total number of jobs for August was up more than 20,000 from July, but were still down more than 130,000 from the start of the recession.
Also, the Department of Employment and Workforce reported that a count of households showed that 1,716 fewer South Carolinians had jobs in August, compared with July. That survey includes people who work in agriculture or other jobs that are not covered by unemployment insurance and not included in the statewide job count.
Marion County continued to have the state's highest unemployment rate at 19.8 percent while Lexington County again had the lowest rate at 8.6 percent..