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After a positively brutal month of December, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley got an unexpected early Christmas present this week when the Palmetto State’s unemployment rate dropped from 10.5 percent to 9.9 percent.

That decline is the largest one-month drop since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began publishing the state’s unemployment data in 1976 – although even after this significant decrease South Carolina’s unemployment rate remains the nation’s eighth-highest.

“When we took office, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent,” Haley said in a statement. “To see it drop to 9.9 percent is a good way to end the year. We continue to have challenges, but we are committed to doing all we can to put South Carolinians back to work.”

Haley aggressively took ownership of the state’s unemployment rate when it dropped to 9.8 percent this spring – but was nowhere to be found when it shot up to 11.1 percent during the summer.

The state’s underemployment rate – a broader, more accurate measure of joblessness – remains at 18.4 percent.

While the decline – which was preceded by a similar drop in the national unemployment rate – is obviously good news, a big chunk of the gain comes from fewer job-seekers being in the market. In fact, the state’s labor pool actually shrunk last month.

S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian was not impressed by the report.

“If we had any real leadership in South Carolina we would not still be in the bottom 20 percent of employment in the country,” Harpootlian said. “Republicans have been in control of this state for almost 10 years and we’ve teetered in the bottom percentile for the entire decade.”

Also tempering the good news for Haley? The fact that one of her “major economic development wins” in Greenville, S.C. has been put on hold.