COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's jobless rate held fast at 9.6 percent in August, essentially remaining the same as in July, the state Department of Employment and Workforce reported Friday.
The July rate had inched up from a 9.4 percent rate in June. May's rate of 9.1 percent was the first time the state's unemployment had gone up in 10 months.
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, driven primarily by fewer people participating in the workforce, the agency said in a release.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that South Carolina's rate ranks it sixth in the nation. Nevada has the highest rate of 12.1 percent and North Dakota the lowest with 3 percent.
South Carolina's Marion County registered the highest jobless rate of 17.3 percent, while Lexington County had the lowest with 7.2 percent.
The agency said the estimated number of unemployed people dropped by just over 2,021 people to 204,941. The number employed also decreased by 10,347 to 1,926,595.
Those two reductions moved the labor force total down 12,368 to an estimated number of 2,131,536. That put the "labor force participation rate" at 58.4 percent, which the agency says is the lowest rate recorded since 1976 when data became available. The agency says that figure is "reflective of more people choosing not to participate in the labor force than ever before."
The agency says nonfarm payroll jobs grew by 2,400 from July to August, with the majority coming through an increase in government jobs as state and local schools began augmenting staff for the new school year.
The education and health services sector bumped up by 1,400 as private schools and ambulatory health care services added jobs in August, the agency said.
But employment in professional and business services dropped by 2,000 jobs while leisure and hospitality also fell by 1,600 jobs, apparently a reflection of the end of the holiday season.
Other service-related employment also declined by 200 positions. The natural resources and mining sector remained unchanged.
Abraham Turner, the executive director of the agency, said the figures show more work needs to be done, but added that increases in private sector jobs "shows me that South Carolina is on the road to economic recovery."
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