COLUMBIA - South Carolina's jobless rate was up slightly last month at 10.8 percent - ending five months of decline - but one economist said the real worry is the fifth consecutive monthly decrease in the state's labor force.
The state's unemployment rate was up from 10.7 percent in June and topped the national jobless rate of 9.5 percent in July.
South Carolina continued to have one of the nation's highest unemployment rates, coming in at No. 6 behind Nevada (14.3 percent), Michigan (13.1 percent), California (12.3 percent), Rhode Island (11.9 percent) and Florida (11.5 percent).
The total number of jobs in South Carolina decreased more than 30,000 for the month, led by a seasonal reduction of education workers and the loss of about 2,000 temporary Census jobs. Since July 2009, however, the state has added 18,200 jobs to the economy.
"That's actually not bad news. We're adding jobs very slowly," said Mark Witte, an economics professor at the College of Charleston. "It could be worse."
The concern, Witte said, is the continuing decline in the labor force, which has lost almost 40,000 workers in the past year.
Some workers might have given up, older workers might have decided to retire early or some younger workers could have gone back to school to wait for an improved job market.
When more companies do start hiring, Witte said, many of those people will re-enter the job market, possibly keeping the state's unemployment rate high for years to come.
Marion County posted the state's highest unemployment rate with nearly one in five residents looking for work. Lexington County had the lowest rate at 8.2 percent.