South Carolina’s unemployment rate rose for the fourth straight month in August, climbing from 10.9 to 11.1 percent. Meanwhile the state’s underemployment rate – a broader, more accurate measure of joblessness – currently stands at 18.3 percent, although that number is expected to increase when new quarterly data is released next month.
The Palmetto state’s unemployment rate is the fourth-highest in the nation, trailing only Nevada, California and Michigan. Also, South Carolina ranks fourth in the nation over the last three years in terms of overpayment of unemployment benefits.
By comparison, the national unemployment rate remained flat at 9.1 percent in August, although the underemployment rate ticked up from 16.1 to 16.2 percent.
Earlier in her administration, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley rushed to take ownership of modest declines in the Palmetto state’s unemployment rate. In April, Haley held a press conference taking credit for the fact that the state’s unemployment rate had dipped below 10 percent for the first time in more than two years. In fact, she specifically prevented her cabinet agency from releasing the information at the appointed time so that she could fold the data into her media event.
“We are at 9.9 percent,” Haley said at the time. “That is an absolute reason to celebrate and I will tell you that doesn’t happen by accident. I am on the phone every single day with companies – and I will tell you companies want to come.”
In May, when the rate dropped to 9.8 percent, Haley touted the news as “another reason to celebrate what’s happening in South Carolina.”
Haley also publicly bragged about the number of new jobs she was creating – although it was later revealed that she was using manipulated jobs data in an attempt to pad her numbers.
Now that the unemployment rate is rising again, though, Haley has made herself scarce – letting spokesmen for her administration respond to inquiries from the press.
Also, the August jobless data comes amid criticism of Haley’s lavish expenses on a recent “economic development” trip to Paris, France – as well as bizarre comments that she made earlier this month about South Carolina workers applying for jobs at the Savannah River Site, a U.S. Department of Energy facility on the South Carolina-Georgia border.
“Half of them failed a drug test,” Haley said of the SRS workers. “And of the half that was left, of that 50 percent, the other half couldn’t read and write properly.”
A spokesman for the company that manages the SRS site disputed Haley’s claims.
Haley’s office refused to respond to our request for comment regarding the August numbers, although her newly-appointed jobs czar did his best to put a positive spin on the data.
“Although the state’s unemployment rate rose in August, South Carolinians should not be discouraged as we have seen the initial claims for unemployment and the duration of benefits paid decrease,” said SC Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director Abraham Turner. “We are aware through jobs announcements that businesses are coming to the state; therefore, I have made job training my top priority to ensure South Carolina has a skilled and well-trained workforce to offer those businesses.”
South Carolina’s unemployment rate crossed the 10 percent threshold back in February of 2009 – and stayed there for 25 consecutive months. After a brief dip below that psychological barrier earlier this year, this widely-watched economic indicator climbed above ten percent again four months ago.
The Palmetto state’s dismal economic performance comes after state government has received $4.25 billion in so-called “stimulus” funds over the last three years. It also comes on the heels of a pair of record-setting state budgets (here and here).
Clearly growing government hasn’t grown our state’s economy …