Palmetto State Work Force: Modest Uptick

Still, long-term trend lines for South Carolina work force are atrocious …

For the first time since December of 2014 (according to revised data from the federal government), South Carolina’s labor participation rate improved last month.

This key employment indicated rose by 0.1 percent in December from a record low of 57.3 percent in November, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nationally, labor participation climbed by 0.2 percent in December from 62.9 percent to 63.1 percent, matching its highest point under U.S. president Donald Trump.

For the last four years, labor participation in the Palmetto State had either declined or held steady – a troubling, sustained descent that has resulted in South Carolina ranking third-worst nationally in terms of the relative size of its work force.   Only Mississippi (55.8 percent) and West Virginia (53.9 percent) have smaller work forces compared to their available pool of working-age citizens.

Unlike the widely watched employment rate – which only tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – the labor participation rate tracks the size of the workforce itself.  That makes it a far better indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed.

It is also why we follow this metric … and likely why most mainstream media outlets ignore it.

According to the latest data, 2,319,627 South Carolinians were part of the work force in December an increase of 7,519 from the previous month.  Meanwhile the state’s working age population expanded by only 5,010 to 4,037,986.


Obviously we will keep track of this modest uptick to see if it holds.  Sometimes minuscule increases – like this one we reported on back in February of 2017 – are later revised to show no increase or, in some cases, a decline.

The overall trend lines for South Carolina are not good, though.

Labor participation dipped below 60 percent in May of 2012 under former governor Nikki Haley and has not eclipsed that level 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.

Bottom line?  The era of unbridled crony capitalism and obscenely big government in the Palmetto State – fueled by state lawmakers ongoing and seemingly incurable addiction to taxingborrowing and spending on results-challenged bureaucracies – continues to fail our state.

We have said it before, we will say it again: It is time to try something new.  Past time, actually.

Sadly, all we are getting from our “leaders” is more of the same – which means we should not expect the long-term trend line in this critical economic indicator to change anytime soon.



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