Chester and Lancaster counties posted small gains in employment for September, according to statistics released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
Lancaster's unemployment rate dropped to 15.7 percent in September from 17.1 percent in August. The opening of the Indian Land Walmart, which hired about 400 workers, contributed to the drop, said Glenda Parkman, director of the Lancaster employment and workforce office. September's numbers are almost 3 percent less than numbers from a year ago.
Chester's unemployment rate dropped to 17.1 percent in September from 18.2 percent in August. Zachary Booker, assistant director of the Chester employment and workforce office, said the drop is likely because the local office has been encouraging job seekers to look outside Chester for employment. There has been negligible job growth in the county, he said.
York County's number remained stable, dropping to 16.7 percent from 16.8 percent.
The three counties remain in the top 10 unemployed in the state. Chester was fourth, York sixth and Lancaster seventh. Of the state's 46 counties, 27 saw an increase in employment of 1 percent or more.
The South Carolina unemployment rate was steady, falling to 11 percent in September from 11.1 percent in August.
The national unemployment rate for September was 9.6 percent. South Carolina's rate was the nation's sixth highest last month.
The state jobless rate has fallen for much of this year from the all-time high of 12.5 percent in January. People leaving the workforce or stopping their searches for jobs was part of the reason. Unemployment figures only count those who are actively seeking jobs.
Bolstered by school hiring in September, employers added more workers in one month than they had since April. The number of those unemployed rose slightly in September - a month after the number of unemployed South Carolinians increased by the biggest one-month gain in nearly 1 1/2 years.
Private-sector employment, which had been a bright spot for much of the year, fell last month. Many of the private-sector jobs are related to the state's hospitality industry. The state lost about 9,000 hospitality jobs from August.
Businesses are reluctant to add workers because of concerns about health care and tax costs and getting bank credit, economists have suggested. Instead, companies are asking workers on their payrolls to take on extra duties.
John L. Finan, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, suggested the consumer confidence also is responsible for the slow recovery.
"Consumer sentiment remains weak, and this continues to influence the demand for goods and services," Finan said.
The (Columbia) State contributed to this report