South Carolina saw its labor force expand during the month of February, however the Palmetto State still lags behind the rest of the nation on this critical employment metric. As was the case last month, only three states in America had a lower labor participation rate than South Carolina did – reinforcing the extent to which leaders in the S.C. General Assembly must take immediate action to enhance the state’s competitiveness.
Especially for struggling small businesses …
Fortunately, a bad situation wasn’t made any worse last month as the Palmetto State’s labor participation rate actually ticked up by 0.3 percentage points to reach 57 percent – its highest reading since last fall, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Nationally, labor participation stood at 61.4 percent during February – unchanged from the previous month. Only three states – Kentucky (56.7 percent), Mississippi (56.1 percent) and West Virginia (55.3 percent) had worse readings than South Carolina
Readers will recall labor participation data was “seasonally adjusted” last month, leading to a revised uptick. The measure is now up 0.8 percentage points from a record low of 56.2 percent in April 2020.
For those of you keeping score at home, a total of 2,377,298 South Carolinians were part of the workforce in February – an increase of 16,312 people from January. Meanwhile, the state’s working age population increased by 4,304 people – to 4,163,639.
Why does this news outlet follow labor participation as opposed to the widely watched unemployment rate? Well, unlike the latter indicator – which only tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – labor participation rate tracks the size of the workforce itself. This makes it a far more accurate indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed … or not.
For those of you who care about the unemployment rate, it ticked down by a tenth of a percentage point to 5.2 percent in February.
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While you wouldn’t know it watching the latest machinations of the “Republican-controlled” S.C. General Assembly, economic issues are at the forefront of voters’ concerns in the Palmetto State … and with good reason.
Earlier this week, I ran a column highlighting some troubling data from Alignable, a small business referral network. According to its numbers, 41 percent of small businesses had a month or less of cash reserves on hand and 49 percent could not afford to pay their March rent on time and in full.
Those are some frighteningly thin margins … highlighting the extent to which sustained, targeted tax relief (not one-time handouts) is necessary.
Real, market-based accountability in education must also be a priority …
Unfortunately, the left-leaning GOP in Columbia, S.C. is not listening … but then again they haven’t listened for years.
That’s why we are seeing a steady erosion of competitiveness … and why our labor force is shrinking as a result of it.
Under former governor Nikki Haley, labor participation in South Carolina peaked at 60.3 percent between May and September 2011 – but continued to lag well behind the national rate (which ranged between 64 percent and 64.2 percent during that time period). In May of 2012, the rate dipped below 60 percent – and has remained beneath this key demarcation line ever since.
By contrast, labor participation reached as high as 68.5 percent during the early 1990s – right around the time so-called “Republicans” were taking control of state government.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading.
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