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Jobless rate edges up in county, state

Posted: January 23, 2013 8:22 a.m.
Updated: January 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Although remaining slightly below the state’s average, Kershaw County’s unemployment rate ticked upward at the end of 2012, reaching 8.1 percent in December compared with 7.9 percent the previous month.

Since November, the number of employed workers in the county has dropped from 27,045 to 26,957 according to the latest report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW). The local labor force -- those looking for work and those who are working -- fell off slightly as well, dropping from 29,358 to 29,328.

Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean said while any jobless rate increase is unwanted, a .2 percent jump isn’t overly alarming.

“I have seen nothing in our local economy to show me that we have rising unemployment. I think it’s probably a seasonal issue,” she said, noting holiday retail in particular. “I would say the percent change is not alarming. I don’t think the trends are taking us to a place of concern.” 

Overall, Kershaw County has the 11th lowest unemployment rate in the state. The lowest is Lexington County at 6.6 percent and the highest is Marion County at 17.2 percent. Kershaw County’s unemployment levels have also improved compared to the end of 2011 when the local jobless rate sat at 9.4 percent.

McLean said she obviously wants to see the county’s unemployment numbers consistently decrease and wants to keep the rate below the state’s average. 

“We want our people to have jobs. We had a good, strong year economic development-wise. We had new investment of (more than) $33 million and 100 new jobs created. Certainly we’ll do our best to take that success into 2013.”

Last year, Kershaw County saw additional industrial growth with expansions by Accuride, a commercial vehicle component supplier, and INVISTA, a manufacturing company which specializes in polymers and fibers. Diversified Information Technologies, a document solutions company, also finalized a deal last year to expand operations into Kershaw County, generating a $5.8 million investment.

While the county experienced economic growth, it also was hit with some financial disappointment. Last June, Yutaka, an ATV and motorcycle parts manufacturer, closed its Lugoff plant, causing 150 employees to lose their jobs.

On a statewide level, the jobless rate experienced an increase as well at the end of 2012, edging up to 8.4 percent in December. The slight jump ended four months of consecutive declines in the unemployment rate. Since November, only three counties have experienced jobless rate decreases -- Bamberg, Calhoun and Orangeburg.

DEW Executive Director Abraham Turner said in a press release that a small decrease in employment is typically experienced in December due to seasonal declines in the leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and government sectors.

“Nonetheless, I am encouraged as the state’s overall job growth trend throughout 2012 was at a pace similar to historical levels before the recent recession,” Turner said.

The state’s rate has mostly improved in 2012, going down more than a percentage point from the end of 2011 when it stood at 9.6 percent.

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