“How low can it go?”

That’s the question economists (and even a few mainstream media outlets) are finally beginning to ask as it relates to South Carolina’s rapidly shrinking labor force.

According to the latest data from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW), South Carolina’s labor participation rate hit a fresh all-time low in November – dropping to 58.1 percent.

That’s nearly five points lower than the national rate of 63 percent – which is hovering at thirty-five year lows.

It’s also the seventh straight month that South Carolina has seen its labor force shrink, which means that recent declines in unemployment are being fueled at least in part by an exodus of available, working age laborers.

Take a look …


November 58.1 percent
October – 58.2 percent
September – 58.4 percent
August – 58.4 percent
July – 58.5 percent
June – 58.7 percent
May – 58.8 percent
April – 58.9 percent

(For historical labor participation rate data, click here).

Labor participation in South Carolina under Haley peaked at 60.9 percent in June 2011 but has been falling precipitously ever since.  Similarly, the national rate has been declining steadily since U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

Haley was called to account earlier this week by the Associated Press – which published a story questioning her administration’s rosy job claims (numbers the governor has previously been busted fudging).

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey did not immediately respond to our request for comment regarding that story – or our request for comment regarding the state’s shrinking workforce.