York County's jobless rate jumps

York County's unemployment rate shot up to 6.8 percent in May, a 1.1 percentage point increase from April and the fourth-highest increase in the state, according to a report released Friday by the S.C. Employment Security Commission.

Almost 7,300 York County workers were jobless in May, an increase of more than 1,200 from April, the report states. It's the highest jobless rate in York County since February 2006 when 7 percent of workers were unemployed.

Statewide, unemployment rose to 6.5 percent, the highest jobless rate since January 2006. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 6 percent.

State officials blame South Carolina's increase on the continued decline in construction jobs in a gloomy housing market and lost jobs in the manufacturing sector; each lost 400 jobs statewide in May. Officials also attribute the spike to high gas prices and food costs that are pushing more workers into the job market looking for extra cash to make ends meet, according to the report released Friday.

Recent college and high school graduates are entering the work force this time of year, inflating numbers.

Annie Reid, director of the York County Workforce Center, said the local jobless rate can be attributed in part to the summer season. Each year, some employees, such as the Head Start program's teachers and bus drivers, lose their employment until the fall.

However, she notes some small business closings, such as Kings Electronics' recent layoffs, also contribute to the increase. The Rock Hill electronic accessories manufacturer is laying off 67 workers and closing its Waterford Business Park plant by the end of the month, according to a report issued last week by the S.C. Commerce Department.

"There have been a few small places closing," Reid said. "Small companies here and there. But there hasn't been one major closing that we've had to deal with."

In Chester County, the jobless rate grew to 10.7 percent, a 0.5 percentage point jump and fourth-worst total in the state. Lancaster County also posted a 0.5 percentage point increase, up to 10.3 percent.

Overall, York County's unemployment rate ranked 24th in South Carolina.