Originally created 05/26/98

S.C. hiring rate lower than nation



COLUMBIA -- Fewer businesses in South Carolina will be hiring new workers compared with companies across the country -- but that may not necessarily reflect poorly on the state.

Manpower Inc. surveyed more than 15,000 businesses across the nation and released its results today.

About one-third had plans to add new positions during July, August and September.

In South Carolina, less than a quarter of businesses surveyed said they planned to hire more workers.

One economist attributed the numbers to the state's 40-year low unemployment rate, saying the reason business don't plan to expand is because there aren't enough people looking for jobs.

The latest unemployment figures, released last month, showed a 2.4 percent rate in March, compared with a national rate of 4.7 percent.

"In South Carolina, we don't have what you'd call a tight labor market," said Doug Woodward, an economics professor at the University of South Carolina.

"What it might be saying is that these employers are saying, `We'll have to increase the hours of the workers we have rather than hiring new employees. They're simply not out there."'

Employers in Greenwood and Florence reported the greatest expected staff increases -- 36 percent and 33 percent, respectively -- while Hartsville, Anderson and Columbia came in last at 16 percent.

The opening of the Honda all-terrain vehicle manufacturing plant in Timmonsville in Florence County is likely the reason for the high increases there, and expansions at the Fuji plant in Greenwood are behind the numbers in western South Carolina, Woodward said.

The hottest job prospects in South Carolina are in construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, like food and clothing, and wholesale and retail trade, Manpower said.

Reductions are expected in durable goods manufacturing, such as computers and appliances.

Service industries, like restaurants and hospitals, gave mixed readings.