From February to August of this year, South Carolina’s anemic workforce grew by leaps and bounds – posting dramatic increases on a key employment indicator that typically expands (or contracts) incrementally.
I’m referring to the labor participation rate, which our media outlet has consistently argued is the most vital 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 better indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed … or, as is too often the case in South Carolina, not.
Unfortunately, establishment politicians – and the media mouthpieces which prop them up – don’t like to discuss this number. We track it religiously, though.
As noted, labor participation in the Palmetto State soared from a revised record low of 55.8 percent in January to 57 percent in August. That’s an increase of 1.2 percent over just seven months. And while it may not seem like a huge bump, remember … this indicator moves very slowly.
So that’s the good news …
The bad news? Not only has this uptick stalled out for the fourth consecutive month (holding at 57 percent in November just as it did in August, September and October) – but the Palmetto State remains near the bottom of the national barrel. Only two states – West Virginia (55.2 percent) and Mississippi (53.8 percent) – had lower labor participation rates than South Carolina last month.
Nationally, labor participation climbed 0.1 percent in November to 62.8 percent – matching its high-water mark under the administration of current U.S. president Joe Biden.
You can track both of these trend lines courtesy of our amazingly intrepid (intrepidly amazing?) research director Jenn Wood …
(Click to view)
South Carolina’s historic employment weakness is creating issues for former governor (and 2024 presidential contender) Nikki Haley, who is enjoying a surge of support in early-voting New Hampshire. Haley’s upward trajectory has some big money donors backing her bid against former president Donald Trump.
The problem? While Haley bills herself as America’s “Jobs Governor,” the numbers behind that claim don’t add up.
As the chart above indicates, “Republican” leaders – including Haley – 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.
Now? It is struggling to get back to the 60 percent demarcation line … which it last achieved in May 2012, Haley’s second full year in office. When Haley left office in January 2017, labor participation in the South Carolina had plunged all the way down to 58.2 percent.
What happened? The “Jobs Governor” didn’t do what she said she was going to do …
Haley campaigned and was elected in 2010 as a limited government Tea Party candidate. She didn’t govern that way, though. Crony capitalism – i.e. the taxpayer subsidization of “economic development” – exploded during her tenure. So did the state’s profligate spending and unconstitutional borrowing – neither of which Haley lifted a finger to try and stop.
Many in the mainstream press have tried to spin South Carolina’s anemic workforce totals as being due to the state having a considerably larger retiree population than most states. There is some truth to that, as an estimated 18.7 percent of the state’s population was over the age of 65 in 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data – ranking South Carolina tenth in the nation on this statistic.
The problem? Each of the nine states with larger retiree populations than South Carolina have higher labor participation rates – including seven states with labor participation rates above 60 percent.
These states also boast higher income levels than the Palmetto State.
How can South Carolina turn things around? For starters its leaders can belatedly acknowledge that the crony capitalist corporate welfare schemes advanced by GOP politicians like Haley and governor Henry McMaster have failed to grow our state’s economy – and that continuing to follow the same approach will only produce costlier failures moving forward.
Rather than doling out billions of dollars in subsidies to large corporations, Palmetto State lawmakers and executive branch leaders must instead embrace long-overdue individual income tax relief – something this media outlet has been championing for years. Only then will our economy experience the sort of organic, ‘from-the-ground-up’ growth necessary to create and sustain small businesses – and the safe, prosperous and competitive communities they support.
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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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