South Carolina has more people working than ever, while York and Lancaster have unemployment rates below the national average.
Statistics show the number of people working hit a new high in June while unemployment dropped for the third straight month. Dorothy Weaver with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce said companies are hiring across the state.
“They are continuing to hire at record levels,” she said. “The trick is just trying to make sure people coming out of training or education in particular fields have the right skill set for the jobs that are available.”
State employment data doesn’t include farm jobs. It includes others by category, from information to mining and logging to government.
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The state breaks down employment figures two ways. Both show growth in the past year.
Seasonally adjusted numbers take out job gains and losses that follow annual patterns. Hiring specific to summer tourism or jobs impacted by school closings each summer, for instance, wouldn’t count. Seasonal adjustment makes it easier to see trends that aren’t simply based on the calendar.
“It gives a more accurate average, a more accurate picture,” Weaver said. “You take out all those summer jobs, all those tourist jobs that occur seasonally.”
June jobs increased by 35,200 in the past year and 3,400 in the past month, to a record 2,125,700. Hospitality, utilities and education saw big gains the past year. Construction and professional services declined.
South Carolina had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.8 percent in June, down from 4 percent a month prior and 4.2 percent in June 2017.
Overall numbers keep the fluctuation brought on by changing seasons.
While every county and major metropolitan area in the state saw an increase in overall unemployment from May to June —Weaver said it’s typical with the start of summer, largely due to schools — there was an across-the-board decrease in unemployment this June compared to June 2017.
York County unemployment dropped to 3.4 percent, compared to 4.2 percent a year ago. York County has the eighth lowest unemployment rate in the state. Lancaster County lowered its unemployment rate from 4.8 to 3.9 percent in a year. Chester County, with the 11th highest unemployment rate among all counties at 4.7 percent, still saw improvement from 6.2 percent in June 2017.
The tri-county area has 96 percent of its 188,360-worker labor force employed.
With leisure and hospitality topping the month-to-month and year-to-year change lists, regardless whether they’re seasonally adjusted, Billy Dunlap isn’t surprised.
“Tourism drives a large part of the economy in York County,” said the county convention and visitors bureau president, “and these numbers prove that.”
A massive tourist destination such as Carowinds helps, but the influx of hospitality jobs is more about a county growing as a whole.
“That comes from more people coming into the county, whether it’s for work or whether it’s for tourism,” Dunlap said. “Any time you’re increasing the foot traffic, you have the need for hospitality.”
The hotel boom in York County, specifically in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, is evidence. Existing hotels are hiring, Dunlap said, while new ones are building.
“Of course York County has such a large tourism market, that anything that caters to tourism is going to flourish,” Dunlap said. “For us specifically restaurants and hotels, but more so hotels. You’ve got such a vibrant hotel community.”
In the next two years the number of hotels in the county should increase 25 percent.
“That’s because there’s such a need,” Dunlap said.
While new hotels and restaurants drive hospitality hiring, numerous large companies have announced plans to do business in York County from the medical and financial side in recent years at Kingsley to planned manufacturing, information and other sites. In the fall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed York County more than quadrupled the national average and ranked highest in the nation among counties for job growth.
While farming jobs aren’t included in state employment data, they do account for plenty of work. According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, there are about 25,000 farms on 4.9 million acres statewide. Agriculture is a $3 billion per year industry, according to the department.
The Certified SC Grown program brings to together farms, processors, wholesalers and retailers working in agriculture. Of the 2,048 certified members statewide, per the state website, 106 are located in York (58), Chester (30) or Lancaster (18) counties.
Overall, the tri-county area grew by its labor force by 927 workers in a year. Statewide, the labor force grew by more than 2,600 people in a year while employment rose by more than 12,200. The national unemployment rate sat at 4 percent in June.