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South Carolina Workforce Woes Continue

As spending on state government soars, the Palmetto State’s labor participation rate falls further below the national average …

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South Carolina’s workforce continued scraping the bottom of the barrel in February, with labor participation clocking in at only a tenth of a percent over record lows.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), South Carolina’s labor participation rate was the fourth-lowest in America last month – an anemic 57.1 percent. That’s a decline of 0.1 percent from the previous month and barely above the revised record low of 57 percent recorded from August through November of 2022.

Nationally, labor participation held at 62.5 percent for the third consecutive month – meaning the Palmetto State continued its recent trend of falling further behind the rest of the country.

For those of you visually inclined, check out this graphic from our inimitable research director, Jenn Wood

For the second straight month, South Carolina fared better than only three other states: Kentucky (56.9 percent), West Virginia (55.2 percent) and Mississippi (53.7 percent). By contrast, neighboring Georgia stayed at 61.4 percent for the second straight month and North Carolina held strong at 60.7 percent.

What is labor participation? And why does it matter?

Unlike the widely reported unemployment rate – which tracks a segment of workers within the labor force – labor participation tracks the size of the workforce itself. Accordingly, it is a far better indicator of the extent to which people are gainfully employed … or, as is too often the case in South Carolina, not.

BLS bean counters recently revised three years of previously released data (going back to 2020) – smoothing out peaks and valleys in the numbers. As I noted last month, though, “these changes did nothing to arrest South Carolina’s sustained downward trajectory on this most important of all employment metrics.”


Where should you invest your political capital? Our Palmetto Political Stock Index has got you covered!


Indeed, the latest numbers place renewed pressure on policymakers to start prioritizing economic growth ahead of the continued growth of state government – although if history is any indication, citizens and taxpayers shouldn’t hold their breath on a reorientation of the status quo.

Uniparty politicians continue approving unsustainable state spending increases – while at the same time refusing to send any meaningful amount of money back to taxpayers. Such profligacy has continued even after so-called “Republicans” assumed supermajorities in both chambers of the S.C. General Assembly – to go with their total control over the state’s constitutional offices.

Despite campaigning as “conservatives,” these GOP politicians have grown government faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay for it for decades, repeatedly ignoring calls for broad-based income tax relief while consistently embracing bloated, ineffectual bureaucracies and failed crony capitalist schemes.

The end result of these policies? A steady erosion of South Carolina’s workforce 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.

So much for “conservative” governance, right?

BANNER: Travis Bell Columbia SC Photographers



(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 seven (soon to be eight) children.



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JustSomeGuy Top fan March 25, 2024 at 2:56 pm

Stay-at-home moms are wrecking our stats. Get back to work! You need to create daycare jobs.

MAGA March 25, 2024 at 6:24 pm

I thought MAGA loved housewives. Didn’t they trot out a housewife sitting at a kitchen table for their State of the Union response? Barefoot, pregnant, and dinner on the table when Dad gets home from work. That is making America great again, but it does not do much for labor participation. Especially, when you try to market your state as a destination for old retired people looking for cheap housing.

JustCallMeAva Top fan March 26, 2024 at 12:54 pm

Ah yes, the “income tax relief” will solve everything for everyone no matter what! As a Koch Brother flunkie, that’s always going to be Will’s go-to flex–more “Citizens for (Billionaire’s Continued) Prosperity BS. Anyway–the real story is that Will and his billionaire buddies just want the 1% to get even more in federal/state welfare in the form of more tax cuts and refunds–aka “free stuff” that they have brainwashed the MAGA into believing everyone else is taking advantage of. Ha! Meanwhile, to pay for this tax dodge, the GOP plans to axe both medicare and social security. No retirement for you! Seriously, that’s their solution to lining their pockets and also, keeping people working until the day they freaking die. That makes working look so attractive doesn’t it? And we keep telling kids that all they have to do is graduate high school–no need for post-secondary degrees–and they too can be a 1%er. Except they can’t and they won’t. Aim low, end up underemployed and on the lower-class income scale for the rest of your freaking life if you don’t end up dead or in jail. Add that to the housing shortage/spike in prices, and there are going to be a hella lot of younger people moving out of the state their families have lived in for generations because they’ll no longer be able to afford to actually live here anymore. Childcare costs, like everything else, are also through the roof, so that will discourage people from having more kids, which also increases our long-term labor shortage woes. None of that can be solved with more tax cuts for the wealthy. It is going to take educational improvements (that don’t involve the charter school scam or some convoluted plan to pay the wealthy’s private school fees), to make sure kids have the education + skills needed to succeed. We also need to help lower housing costs for the middle classes. Maybe try giving them some tax “relief” and making the fat cats pay. Yeah, sounds pretty radical doesn’t it?

Barbara Huckaby Top fan March 26, 2024 at 3:12 pm

Maybe people don’t want to join the workforce in our “right to work” ie no rights for workers state since SC does not pay their workers enough to live in their cities. And I say this as a SC Republican of 30 years!


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