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South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 10.5 percent in January, a reduction that mirrored the national decrease of four-tenths of a percentage point.

Still, even as state officials touted the addition of 13,800 jobs compared to this time a year ago, the state’s labor force has shrunk by more than 9,000 workers over that same time period.

Consistently among the nation’s highest, South Carolina’s unemployment rate has remained at or above 10.5 percent for twenty-four consecutive months – peaking at 12.5 percent in January of 2010.

Nonetheless, state officials are optimistic that the employment trajectory is now moving in the right direction.

“The news in South Carolina is positive and shows improvement in both employment and the unemployment rate, which gives rise to the hope and expectation that the number of jobs will continue to increase,” said SC Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director John Finan.

The report is the first assessing the performance of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – and is one of many measures that will be used to gauge her effectiveness in turning around the Palmetto state’s moribund economy.