York, Chester and Lancaster counties posted single-digit unemployment rates in November for the first time since 2005, according to state data released Friday.
For the second consecutive month, York County was at or below the state average. The November rate was 7.1 percent, equal to the state average. The county unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in October, just below the state rate of 7.5 percent.
The national average for November was 7 percent.
Rock Hill’s rate has been 8.8 percent for September and October, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau has not released Rock Hill’s November rate.
Lancaster’s rate was 8.1 percent in November, down from 8.8 percent. Over the past 40 years, unemployment has historically averaged 8.6 percent, county officials said.
Chester’s rate was 9.4 percent for November, the first time the county’s rate has been below 10 percent since 2005, when the yearly average rate was 9.2 percent.
Economists and those helping people find jobs said the numbers did not surprise them. There has been a slow but steady economic recovery in the area for the past several months.
“This shows we are making a difference,” said Sharon Blackburn, who oversees the ResCare staff that operates the employment offices in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.
ResCare has been operating the office for about two years, and Blackburn said there has been a jump in the number of companies posting jobs with the state’s employment offices in the last year.
Janice Giroux, owner of Express Employment Services on Cherry Road, said this has been a busy year. “There is work to be had,” she said. Her office has averaged interviewing 32 people a week for jobs, compared to 22 last year. She said more job seekers are already employed and looking to better their situation.
Giroux said there continues to be a problem finding workers for various skilled positions.
Winthrop University professor and economist Lou Pantuosco said the numbers reflect a continued slow recovery. “That’s good,” he said.“You don’t want it get better quickly because you get inflation.”
Indicators of the slow recovery are growth in the construction and manufacturing industries, he said.
According to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, the state added 4,800 construction jobs and 3,600 manufacturing jobs in November.
Drops in the workforce also affected the unemployment numbers.
In York County, the number of employed people was virtually stable, dropping 10. The labor force, however, dropped by 729 eligible people.
In Lancaster the number of employed dropped by 133 to 29,276 and the labor force by 315 to 31,863.
In Chester the number of employed dropped by 78 to 13,081 and the labor force by 211 to 14,446.