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Schunk presents overview of S.C. labor markets for November

December 18, 2009

The following report is an overview by Don Schunk, research economist at Coastal Carolina University, of employment/unemployment data for November 2009 released today by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Highlights from November 2009 data:

South Carolinas unemployment rate rose to 12.3% in November from 12.0% in October. While the national unemployment rate dipped slightly in November, the states unemployment rate rose amid a backdrop of an increase in the size of the labor force coupled with further declines in employment. After five months of labor force declines, November saw more people (unsuccessfully) looking for work, sending the unemployment rate to an all-time high. South Carolina continues to shed jobs, and if we continue to see increases in the labor force, then we will see the unemployment rate climb. I expect the official rate will march towards 13% in the first months of 2010.

Total employment is down about 2.7% versus November 2008. Total employment is down more than 50,000 over the last year, and nearly 100,000 since December 2007. Looking at employment levels in this way provides a glimpse of the severity of our job losses. However, to gauge where we are in the course of the cycle, we need to look at the shorter-term changes in total employment. The accompanying graph shows total employment since January 2000. While the pace of job losses has slowed in recent months, it is clear that we are still losing jobs every month. Weve turned one corner job losses have slowed now we need to turn the next corner toward employment stability. The state appears to be a long way from outright job gains, and many years away from actually recovering all of the losses of this recession.

Unemployment rates along the Grand Strand rose in November. It is never surprising to see higher unemployment rates in Horry and Georgetown Counties heading into the off-season. Importantly, though, these local rates are up even after seasonal-adjustments. The raw data show Horry and Georgetown at 13.3% and 14.0% respectively. On a seasonally-adjusted basis (which allows them to be compared to the statewide rate of 12.3%), Horry and Georgetown stand at 12.9% and 13.8% respectively.

The November labor market data are weak even though national indicators continue to suggest the recession is technically over. We talk often about the outlook for a jobless recovery similar to that experienced after the previous recession. Unfortunately, were not even at that point yet, for now we appear to be stuck with a job-loss recovery. We should be concerned about the sustainability of any recovery when we continue to post job losses.

For additional information, contact Don Schunk, Coastal Carolina University research economist, at, 843-655-0995 or 843-349-2485.