South Carolina unemployment drops for 8th consecutive month

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IRMO, S.C. — South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell for the eighth consecutive month to 8.9 percent in March as the state once again added jobs and took people off the jobless rolls.

Gov. Nikki Haley celebrated Friday’s news, delaying the state release of the figure for a few hours until she could talk to reporters at a small business in Irmo.

Haley stood beside a chart showing the steep decline in the unemployment rate over the past year, from 10.4 percent in March 2011 and also pointed out the jobless rate hasn’t been this low since hitting 8.8 percent in December 2008. But she also said her work to try to improve South Carolina’s economy is not done.

“We are not satisfied yet,” Haley said. “It is something to be said that we haven’t seen this in three-and-a-half years.”

South Carolina’s jobless rate peaked at 12.5 percent in January 2010. March’s 8.9 percent rate ranked ninth in the country and is inching closer to the U.S. rate of 8.2 percent.

The unemployment rate for March fell in every one of South Carolina’s 46 counties. The state added 17,100 jobs last month, with the annual spring increase in hospitality and leisure jobs leading the way, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

Marion County had the state’s worst unemployment rate in March at 17.4 percent, while Charleston, Greenville and Lexington counties each had South Carolina’s lowest rate at 6.8 percent.

Haley decided to tout the latest fall in jobless numbers at Stier Supply Company in Irmo, a 65-year-old family business that sells all sorts of building supplies to contractors.

When the bottom fell out of the housing market, the business suffered greatly, owner Jon Stier said. But in the past few years, he has been able to hire 15 additional workers.

“We’re not as nervous as we used to be,” Stier said. “But we’re always nervous. When you stop being nervous, that’s a bad sign. Your customers are always able to go elsewhere.”

Haley stayed for a few minutes after her news conference to sign copies of her book and take pictures with the Stier family. It has been a busy week for the governor, who on Thursday spoke at an international tire conference on Hilton Head Island that the governor said was full of companies that want to come to the state.

“I bet you we got 20 business cards of people wanting to expand in South Carolina,” Haley said. “And their reasoning is unions are low, the cost of doing business is low. And you’ve got a governor understanding it’s about cash flow and profit margins.”

FEWER STATES REPORT JOB GAINS

Job gains were reported in 29 states last month, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s worse than February, when 42 states added jobs. Nationwide in March, employers added only 120,000 jobs, half the pace of the previous three months.

Economists have cautioned that the hiring slowdown in March might be temporary. They added that a warmer winter might have led to some earlier hiring in January and February. Most are awaiting the April jobs report before concluding that hiring has stalled.

Unemployment fell in most states in March: 30 states reported lower rates. Eight reported increases.

Georgia’s rate fell to 9 percent from 9.1 percent in February.

– Associated Press


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