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August saw biggest monthly South Carolina unemployment rate drop in SC in more than 30 years


CHARLESTON, South Carolina — South Carolina's unemployment rate had its largest one-month decline in more than 30 years during August, a sign the state economy is continuing to gain strength, economists say.

"This is another sign that the economy in South Carolina is robust," said Frank Hefner, the director of the Office of Economic Analysis at the College of Charleston. But he said he would prefer that, instead of the biggest drop in unemployment since 1983, the state was reporting the biggest job increase in 32 years.

The Department of Employment and Workforce reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 6.4 percent in July to 6 percent in August. It was the third straight month that unemployment has dropped and the largest one-month decline since 1983.

The department reported the number of people unemployed dropped by almost 8,000 during August while 2,700 new jobs were created in August. The difference between the two numbers is likely people who dropped out of the workforce or stopped looking for work.

Total employment has increased to almost 2.1 million people and during the past year the state's labor force has grown by almost 52,000 workers.

"These numbers reflect the fact that more South Carolinians are working than any time in history," Gov. Nikki Haley said in a written statement.

The department reported that government jobs led the increase in employment, adding 1,400 new positions during August.

"This is a good jobs report and it's consistent with what we have been seeing though 2015," said Joseph Von Nessen, an economist at the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business. "But the employment growth rate is the single best gauge we have of the overall economy."

That rate, he said, has been a solid 2.8 percent in 2015, up from about 2 percent last year.

While August proved good news for the state's employment picture, the state's unemployment rate was still higher than the national jobless rate of 5.1 percent.

That's not unusual, Von Nessen said.

"South Carolina is a more rural state and so we see higher unemployment in rural areas that brings the rate up. It's normal for us to lag the nation," he said.

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