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South Carolina Employment Situation: Flatlining

Bad news for Henry McMaster and Nikki Haley …

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Every year, bean counters at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adjust employment data to account for “seasonal revisions.” Sometimes, the news is good … other times, not so much.

Last year, seasonal revisions plunged South Carolina’s labor participation rate – the most critical employment indicator of them all – to a new record low of 55.8 percent. That meant the Palmetto State’s workforce was the third-smallest in the entire country as a percentage of its working age population.

It still is third-smallest, actually …

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.



In a state where income levels have also historically trailed the national average, the 2022 revision was another indictment of the ruling uniparty‘s commitment to the same failed approaches: Bloated bureaucracies and crony capitalist schemes.

While we await seasonal revisions for 2023, initial numbers are in for the final month of the year. According to the data, South Carolina’s labor participation remained stuck at 57 percent for the fifth consecutive month.

As was the case last month, only two states had lower labor participation rates than South Carolina – West Virginia (55.3 percent) and Mississippi (53.8 percent). Nationally, this indicator tumbled by 0.3 percent to 62.5 percent – its steepest monthly drop as well as its lowest reading since January 2023.

Visually inclined? Our Jenn Wood has you covered …

As the chart above indicates, “Republican” leaders in South Carolina – including former governor and 2024 presidential candidate Nikki 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 continuing to push historic lows …

On the presidential trial, Haley bills herself as America’s “Jobs Governor” – but the numbers behind that claim don’t add up. Labor participation has not eclipsed the 60 percent demarcation line since 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.

Haley isn’t solely to blame, obviously. Current governor Henry McMaster and the Republican “supermajority” in the state legislature have failed to lift a finger to stop these failed policies, too.



(Travis Bell Photography)

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 eight children.



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Jack Hinson January 26, 2024 at 12:29 pm

If SC has a crappy labor participation rate, it has nothing to do with what you say. It exists because Republicans make South Carolina a crappy place to work for employees and because we have built our economy on old people moving here for cheap real estate.

Teresa Whetzel Top fan January 28, 2024 at 12:54 pm

IMO the SC system is broken. From Social Services to the State House. Employment, Education, Healthcare, Housing nothing is really helping the residents.


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