(The Center Square) – The number of unemployed South Carolinians declined by 2,278 people from March to April while the number of working South Carolinians also fell by 4,186.
Economists hope the seemingly contradictory numbers posted last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) are an anomaly and not a trend.
The state’s labor participation rate – its number of job-holders and job-seekers – declined to 57% of the estimated eligible workforce, the nation’s fourth-worst labor participation rate for the second consecutive month, the BLS and the DEW said in April's household survey.
The simultaneous drop in job-holders and job-seekers means unemployed workers have either left the state or are no longer looking for a job. To be unemployed, a South Carolina resident has to not have a job and actively be looking for work.
There were 2,381,633 South Carolinians in the labor force in April, down 6,464 from March, the DEW said.
While the number of employed South Carolinians declined by 4,186 people with 2,263,256 employed in April, the state’s unemployment rate also decreased from 5.1% in March to 5% in April, the DEW reported. There were 118,377 people unemployed in the state at the end of April, according to the agency.
To boost South Carolina’s labor participation rate, the state reinstated in April the requirement that people receiving unemployment benefits show proof they are looking for work, and Gov. Henry McMaster announced earlier this month residents no longer will receive the federal $300 weekly federal pandemic unemployment benefit, starting June 30.
The skewered numbers – and efforts to boost the labor participation rate – reflect the state of South Carolina’s largest job-generator, its $23 billion hospitality and tourism industry, which employs or supports about 10% of all employment in the state with around 250,000 jobs.
About 40,000 South Carolina tourism jobs have been lost over the past year with another 1,300-jobs decline posted in the leisure and hospitality sector in April, the DEW said.
The state’s hospitality and leisure sector hasn’t gained jobs since December, but with more Americans being vaccinated and the federal pandemic assistance ending next month, many South Carolina tourism businesses expect a busy summer.
Noting his agency had 82,000 jobs posted on its website last week, DEW Director Dan Ellzey said this is a great time to find a great job in South Carolina.
“Now is the time to act, before the end of the federal programs, which will likely begin a rush for the open positions,” Elizey said. “The demand for labor is intense. Employers are eager to find their workforce and, in many cases, can provide what unemployment benefits never could, critical medical benefits, 401K and retirement opportunities and long-term security.”
Manufacturing lost 2,500 jobs in April, professional/business services lost 2,300 jobs, financial activities lost 1,300 and trade, transportation and utilities lost 800 jobs, DEW said.
Education and health services added 2,300 workers, construction added 600, and government and information sectors collectively gained another 700 in April, the DEW. All three sectors had lost jobs in March.
From April 2020 to April 2021, South Carolina’s economy gained 224,700 jobs, according to the DEW, led by the addition of 85,600 jobs in leisure and hospitality – about 42,000 jobs below what it was in March 2020.
Trade, transportation and utilities added 41,300 jobs in the 12-month period between Aprils, while professional and business services added 29,100. No industries reported decreases over the year.