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Overview of South Carolina's Labor Markets, June 2007

July 20, 2007

Economic Indicator Analysis from the Coastal Federal Center for Economic and Community Development, E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration at Coastal Carolina University

Contact: Dr. Don Schunk, Research Economist,, (843) 349-2485 or (843) 333-8548

June 2007 data on employment and unemployment for South Carolina were released July 20 by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite a slight uptick in the jobless rate between May and June, from 5.4 percent to 5.5 percent, the most recent labor market indicators suggest that South Carolina's economy is continuing to post solid gains. Looking ahead, I suspect that job growth will remain steady through the rest of 2007, and that the unemployment rate will edge lower in the coming months. Overall, the major labor market trends across South Carolina currently include:

• The growth of the state's labor force has slowed in recent months towards a more sustainable rate. Last year at this time, the state's labor force was growing as fast as, or faster than, total job growth. This was preventing our unemployment rate from declining even though we had healthy job growth. Currently, the state continues to post strong job growth - over the last 12 months, total employment is up 2.5 percent as measured by the household survey, and 1.7 percent as measured by the establishment survey. But, the last year has seen our labor force growth slow from roughly 2.5 percent to about 1.5 percent. The state's economy is generating jobs, and the rapid influx of new job seekers has slowed, allowing the jobless rate to fall from 6.5 percent in June 2006 to 5.5 percent as of June 2007. In the last twelve months, South Carolina posted the third largest year-over-year unemployment rate decline in the U.S.

• Total employment statewide is growing slightly faster than the national average, despite persistent job losses in manufacturing. Between June 2006 and June 2007, South Carolina saw a net gain of 33,100 jobs for an increase of 1.7 percent. Over the same period, manufacturing has seen a loss of 10,100 jobs, 85 percent of which were in nondurable goods sectors, such as textiles, chemicals, and paper. One bright spot for manufacturing is that the state's durable goods producers have posted some job gains over the last six months while industrial production nationwide has continued to grow. Outside of manufacturing and government, all major sectors in South Carolina have been adding jobs in the last year.

• Regional job growth patterns continue to be dictated by differences in local economic structure. Local economies relying heavily on leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and services, are enjoying rapid job growth. Over the last twelve months, Myrtle Beach has led the state in job growth with a 4.0 percent increase, followed by Charleston at 3.9 percent. Columbia, Florence, and Greenville are mirroring the statewide average in job growth. Anderson, Spartanburg, and Sumter continue to post either job losses or only slight gains.

• Overall, the current economic expansion remains strong across South Carolina as a whole. The employment growth and generally falling unemployment should bode well for income growth down the road. With a pullback in both energy prices and overall inflation, real income growth may accelerate this year and next. Of course, risks remain to this outlook. For example, it remains unclear what impact the slowdown in housing nationwide and locally may have on overall economic growth. However, on the whole the state's economy remains solid and is likely to remain resilient.