Despite a national economy which continues flailing under the policies of U.S. president Joe Biden, the employment economy in South Carolina showed limited signs of life last month. The Palmetto State’s chronically weak labor market remained among the worst in America, however – and a sustained rebound is unlikely unless politicians stop nickel-and-diming our comparatively poor population.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), labor participation in South Carolina ticked up 0.2 percent in May to 57.5 percent – its most statistically significant increase nationally, this key indicator inched up 0.1 percent to 62.3 percent.
Is that good news? Yes … but there is a lot of work to be done.
Just look at the recent trend lines per this chart from our intrepid researcher Jenn Wood …
As has been the case for several years now, only five states fared worse than South Carolina on this most essential of all employment indicators: Alabama (57.1 percent), New Mexico (56.8 percent), Arkansas (56.9 percent) Mississippi (55.5 percent) and West Virginia (55.1 percent).
As I have often noted, I track labor participation more closely than the widely watched unemployment rate – the metric mindlessly regurgitated by politicians and their mainstream media mouthpieces. Unlike unemployment – which only tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – labor participation 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.
In case you care about the unemployment rate, it inched up 0.1 percent to 3.3 percent in May.
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 the GOP was taking control of state government.
“Republicans” have controlled the S.C. House of Representatives since December 1994. They have controlled the S.C. Senate since January 2001 – and the S.C. governor’s office since January 2003. In 2020, a “red storm” gave the GOP near supermajorities in both the House and the Senate.
Lawmakers passed a modest income tax cut this year, but as I noted last month the proposal pales in comparison to the tax relief being approved in neighboring states.
“South Carolina leaders need to ‘go big or go home’ when it comes to tax relief,” I wrote in early May. “At the very least, lawmakers must catch up with what our neighboring states are doing … and make sure tax cuts are deep enough to have an impact given rising prices.”
Did they do that? No …
South Carolina has the highest individual income tax rate in the southeast at 7 percent. This measure is also incredibly regressive in that it kicks in on all income over $15,400 – which means it disproportionately hurts low- and middle-income earners. This rate is even more pernicious in light of the soaring inflation we are seeing in Biden’s America.
If Palmetto State citizens want to see the labor participation rate reach (and ideally, exceed) the national average, then they need to start electing authentic fiscal conservatives to positions of authority … while showing tax-and-spend fiscal liberals of both parties the door.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Durham Bulls’ lid pictured above).
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