SC Labor Participation Rate Plumbs New Depths

Palmetto State workforce hits another record low …


Incumbent “Republican” governor Henry McMaster loves to brag about South Carolina’s low unemployment rate.  Should he, though?  No.  As we’ve repeatedly reminded him (and the rest of the Palmetto State’s political class) that’s not the number that matters.

“Unemployment” rates only account for a small segment of workers within the labor force.  By contrast, the labor participation rate tracks the size of the workforce itself.

That makes it a far more meaningful measure of economic health … which is why we report on it.

Anyway, according to numbers released this month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Palmetto State’s labor participation rate in April clocked in at 58.2 percent – down 0.1 percent from March’s reading.  In other words, only 58.2 percent of working age South Carolinians were part of the state’s labor force last month – an absolutely atrocious number.

For those of you doing the math at home, the state’s working age population expanded by 4,770 from March to April – from 3,990,832 to 3,995,602. Unfortunately, its workforce dipped by 3,839 over the same period- from 2,327,331 to 2,323,492.

Both of those numbers need to be going up.  In fact, our workforce number needs to be expanding at a consistently higher clip if we want to match the national labor participation rate of 62.8 percent.

So … when was the last time South Carolina’s labor participation rate was this low?

Um, never …

That’s right: Never.  Since the BLS began tracking labor participation in the states back in January 1976, this metric has never been as low as it is right now.

For whom does that bode poorly?  “Foghorn Guvnah,” that’s who …

(Click to view)

(Via: S.C. Governor)

The guffawing governor has been boasting on the campaign trail about creating 19,000 new jobs (even though most of these positions were tied to “economic development” efforts initiated under the administration of Nikki Haley).

But the question isn’t how many new jobs government “created” – and how much those jobs cost taxpayers in the form of “incentives” – it’s how many jobs have been lost?  And whether job gains are keeping up with the Palmetto State’s growth in population?

Spoiler alert: They aren’t.

As a percentage of its working age population, the Palmetto State’s workforce has shrunk by 0.5 percent since McMaster took office last January.  Meanwhile, for the ninth consecutive month (dating back to last August) South Carolina had the sixth-lowest labor participation rate in America – trailing only Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Mississippi and West Virginia.

And let’s be honest: Things weren’t that much better off under Haley.

“Jobs Governor?” Um, no.  Not even a little bit.

Under the former governor, labor participation peaked at 60.3 percent between May and September 2011.  In May of 2012, however, it dipped below 60 percent – and has remained below this key demarcation line ever since.  By contrast, this measure reached as high as 68.5 percent during the early 1990s – right around the time “Republicans” were taking over state government.

Employment isn’t the only problem facing the Palmetto State’s economy.  South Carolina workers are also confronted by historically low income levels and sluggish overall economic growth.

There are also some serious headwinds to consider: Heightened exposure to a trade war, tax hikes, #NukeGate and a stagnant tourism economy.

Bottom line?  The next governor isn’t going to have an easy time of it … especially considering he or she will be dealing with a state legislature addicted to taxingborrowing and spending.



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