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South Carolina Workforce Bouncing Back?

There’s a sustained uptick in labor participation … but the Palmetto State remains at the bottom of the national barrel on this key metric.

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For the fourth consecutive month, South Carolina’s labor participation rate moved in a positive direction in May – ticking up 0.2 percent from the previous month to settle at 56.5 percent. This key employment indicator is now up 0.7 percent from the record low it hit most recently in January 2023 – and is at its highest level since last July.

That’s obviously good news … although the bad news is the Palmetto State remains near the bottom of the pile nationally on this vital jobs metric. As it has all year, South Carolina had the third-worst labor participation rate in America last month – pacing only West Virginia and Mississippi (both of which clocked in at 54.6 percent).

Regional rivals Georgia (61.3 percent), North Carolina (60.6 percent) and Florida (59.4 percent) were all crushing the Palmetto State, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationally, labor participation remained stuck at 62.6 percent for the third consecutive month – although that is close to its post Covid-19 apex.

For those of you visually inclined, check out this awesome infographic created by our research director Jenn Wood tracking the trend lines …

Labor participation remains the most important jobs metric to follow. Unlike the unemployment rate – which tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – labor participation tracks the size of the workforce itself.  That makes it a far more accurate indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed … or, not.

Unlike the mainstream press, this news outlet has covered labor participation for years – documenting the extent to which the Palmetto State has continued to fall further behind the rest of the nation on this vital jobs measure and, correspondingly, on income growth and prosperity. My outlet has also pointed out this decline has come as “Republican” supermajorities continued investing in bloated bureaucracies and doling out crony capitalist subsidies to select corporations as opposed to providing long-overdue broad-based tax relief for all income-earners.

For those of you keeping score at home, a total of 2,420,551 people were part of the Palmetto State workforce last month – including 2,344,922 who were gainfully employed and 75,629 who were unemployed but actively looking for work.



In contrast to their “pro-business” pronouncements, “Republican” leaders have presided over the Palmetto State’s steady employment collapse over the past thirty-plus years. Indeed, labor participation was humming along as high as 68.5 percent when the GOP began its takeover of state government in the early 1990s.

As GOP rule has expanded, economic competitiveness has continued to erode. Republicans now have supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and control of all the state’s constitutional offices – yet they keep escalating the failed big government approaches of their Democratic predecessors.

Even worse, they are doing it a time when individual taxpayers and small businesses desperately need help.

As we do each and every month, count on this news outlet to keep our audiences up to speed on the latest data for this important indicator – and provide important context as to why that data matters.



Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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.



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1 comment

Nanker Phelge June 17, 2023 at 4:34 pm

“Labor participation remains the most important jobs metric to follow.”

Of course, because if you can’t bitch about unemployment it gives you something else to bitch about.

For the less inquisitive, this rate includes everyone 16 and older, so you have high school and college students and even people retiring (how dare them!) included in these statistics.


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