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SC Labor Participation Slips … Again

Key workforce metric drops for fifth consecutive month …

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South Carolina’s labor participation rate fell for the fifth straight month in August, yet another discouraging sign for the overall health of the Palmetto State’s economy.

According to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), South Carolina’s labor participation stood at 58.7 percent last month – down 0.1 percent from July’s reading.  That’s well below the national rate – which was unchanged at 62.9 percent.  In fact, the Palmetto State has the sixth-worst labor participation rate in the nation – ahead of only Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico and West Virginia.

Unlike unemployment – which tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – the labor participation rate tracks the size of the workforce itself (as a percentage of the state’s working-age population).  This makes it a far better indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed. Obviously the state’s mainstream media disagree with us – as they rarely cover this figure.

After inching up during new S.C. governor Henry McMaster’s first two months in office, labor participation has now dropping a whopping 0.7 percent over the last five months.

That’s terrible, people …

All told, there were 2,318,677 South Carolinians in the workforce in August – down 748 from July’s print of 2,319,425.  Meanwhile the working age population expanded by 4,775 people – from 3,943,538 to 3,948,313.

Over the past five months, the state’s workforce has shrunk by more than 15,000 people … and we still haven’t seen the full impact of the #NukeGate debacle, the recent abandonment of a nuclear power project in Jenkinsville, S.C.

The ill effects of that disaster are expected to continue cascading across the Palmetto economic landscape for months to come.

Labor participation under former governor Nikki Haley peaked at 60.3 percent in mid-2011, but dipped below the 60 percent mark in December 2011 – and remained below this key demarcation line for the duration of her tenure.  Its high-water mark under McMaster is 59.4 percent – reached in March and again in April of this year.

By contrast, this measure reached as high as 68.5 percent during the early 1990s.

This isn’t South Carolina’s only disappointing economic indicator, either.  The Palmetto State continues to struggle with low-paying jobslow incomes and weak economic growth.

“The era of big government in South Carolina – established by Democrats and put on steroids by so-called ‘Republicans’ – is not working,” we wrote last month.  “It’s time (past time, actually) for our elected officials to let the free market have a crack at this.”

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