South Carolina's jobless rate increases for second consecutive month to 6.4 percent

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina's unemployment rate rose again in August to 6.4 percent, putting the state above the national jobless rate, according to labor data released Friday.

The rise of six-tenths of a percentage point marked the second consecutive increase after three months without change. The numbers show more than 138,000 South Carolinians are unemployed but trying to find a job, an increase of 13,400 from July.

The national jobless rate declined slightly to 6.1 percent, the same rate as in June. South Carolina had been below the national rate since last October, according to adjusted data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

South Carolina's revised July rate was 5.8 percent, after being 5.3 percent since April. The state was last at 6.4 percent in January. Federal officials said South Carolina's August jump was the country's largest month-to-month increase.

South Carolina's rate is still better than 19 other states and the District of Columbia, including neighboring Georgia, the nation's highest at 8.1 percent, and North Carolina, at 6.8 percent.

The state's unemployment agency downplayed South Carolina's back-to-back upticks, pointing out that state unemployment in August was 1.1 percentage points lower than a year ago. Last month's rate was 5.5 percentage points lower than the state's all-time high of 11.9 percent reached in December 2009, when the state was consistently posting one of the nation's worst jobless rates.

Agency Director Cheryl Stanton said the labor force has grown to nearly 2.2 million people, "signaling that individuals are entering the job market, actively pursuing the nearly 70,000 available jobs."

However, while the labor force grew by 5,750 people during the month of August, it declined by 6,300 over the last year, according to the agency's release.

The jobless rate increased in all 46 counties in August. Rural Bamberg County, where Gov. Nikki Haley grew up, posted the worst rate of 13.3 percent. It was among eight counties with unemployment at 10 percent or more, compared to four in July. Lexington and Greenville counties fared the best in August at 5.8 percent.

Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said South Carolinians should be proud of the state's progress during her tenure.

"Growing our economy and getting the hard-working people of our state into jobs and positions to better take care of their families has been one of Gov. Haley's top priorities and it will always be," Mayer said.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin countered that the rising rate shows people are desperately searching for work to provide for their families.

"While Gov. Haley's view from her mansion might be rosy, one in five South Carolinians are living in poverty. That's simply unacceptable," he said.

South Carolina's biggest job gains in August came in education and health services, hospitality, and manufacturing, which posted a combined growth of 5,000 jobs, when seasonally adjusted. The state unemployment agency notes that employment historically grows during the month of August as schools gear up. Unadjusted numbers show education and health services added 3,200 jobs in August.

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