South Carolina’s workforce continued to bounce back in June from historic lows recorded just six months ago – which is good news. The bad news? There was plenty of room for improvement. Also, despite the sustained uptick the Palmetto State continues to rank near the bottom of the barrel nationally on this most critical of all employment indicators.
South Carolina saw its labor participation rate climb by 0.2 percent from the previous month to 56.7 percent in June, per the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). June marked the fifth consecutive month this metric has increased – for a total gain of 0.9 percent. While that may not sound particularly impressive, it’s actually a significant and rapid increase for an indicator that moves very slowly and incrementally over time.
Nationally, labor participation remained stuck at 62.6 percent in June – where it has remained since March.
While South Carolina is gaining ground on the national average, it remains in a disadvantageous position. As it has all year, the Palmetto State had the third-worst labor participation rate in America last month – pacing only West Virginia (54.6 percent) and Mississippi (54.5 percent).
Want to see the trend lines? Here is a graphic from our amazing director of research Jenn Wood …
Wait … what is labor participation? And why are we discussing it as opposed to the unemployment rate?
As I’ve often explained, labor participation remains the most important jobs metric. 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.
This news outlet has covered labor participation for years – documenting the extent to which the Palmetto State has fallen further behind the rest of the nation on this vital jobs measure and, correspondingly, on income growth and prosperity. My outlet has also noted the correlation of this decline with “Republican” supermajorities investing in bloated bureaucracies and crony capitalist subsidies as opposed to providing long-overdue broad-based tax relief for all income-earners.
Small businesses in South Carolina are struggling … but rather than easing their burdens, their purportedly “pro-business” leaders have abandoned them.
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. To wit: 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 she campaigns for the White House, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has attempted to brand herself as America’s “Jobs Governor.” Unfortunately, this particular jobs indicator slipped below the key 60 percent demarcation line under her watch – and never bounced back. When Haley left office in January 2017, labor participation in the Palmetto State had slipped all the way down to 58.2 percent.
Under current governor Henry McMaster, labor force participation peaked just above that – at 58.3 percent – in March and April of 2019.
Some mainstream media apologists have tried to spin the Palmetto State’s anemic workforce totals as being attributable to its large retiree population – and that excuse isn’t altogether lacking in merit. An estimated 18.7 percent of South Carolina’s population was over the age of 65 in 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data – the tenth highest senior citizen percentage in the nation.
The problem with this argument? All but one of the nine states with larger retiree populations a higher labor participation rate – including seven states which now have labor participation rates above 60 percent.
For those of you keeping score at home, there were an estimated 2,433,583 people who were part of the state’s workforce in June – including 2,357,445 people who were gainfully employed and 76,138 who were unemployed but actively looking for work.
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.
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