South Carolina adds 6,700 jobs in October, but worker shortages remain across state


When is adding jobs not good enough? When labor shortages prevent employers from growing.

That was a key description Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Regional Economist Laura Ullrich, based in Charlotte, used in her analysis of South Carolina's official October employment report on a Friday conference call with some state media outlets, including The Sumter Item.

For the month, the Palmetto State added 6,700 jobs and is now down 38,900 jobs - or just 1.8% - from February 2020 and pre-pandemic levels.

That is better than the U.S. overall, which is still down 2.8% in its job recovery.

"I would say the good news is we keep adding jobs month after month," Ullrich said. "The not-as-good news is we just are not adding jobs fast enough to keep up with labor demand."

Many businesses throughout the state and nation are finding it "very hard" to find workers, she added.

A telling statistic is that the U.S. labor force - those people employed and those seeking work - is down 3 million, or 1.8%, since the pandemic began in early 2020.

A third of that total was "accelerated retirement" as about 1 million extra people retired last year and are not likely to return to the workforce, Ullrich said.

Others remain out of work because of COVID-19 itself, issues with education of their kids or family health issues. Statistics do show people are still returning to the labor force incrementally, she said.

Another factor in the big picture of a smaller labor force is the generation following the Baby Boomers is just not as big.

"There is not a generation behind the Baby Boomers that looks like the Baby Boomers," Ullrich said. "Once they retire, we just have a smaller percentage of the population that will be working age. We knew this was coming, but I think COVID-19 may have accelerated it a bit."


Ullrich said declines in the spread of COVID-19 helped the state and nation in October. Several industry sectors in the state reported job gains for the month, including manufacturing (+4,200); professional and business services (+2,000); trade, transportation and utilities (+1,500); other services (+800); and financial activities (+500).


In a separate report for October released Friday, South Carolina's unemployment rate decreased from 4.1% to 3.9% in October.

Locally, Sumter County's unemployment rate was 3.6%. Clarendon County stood at 3.9%, and Lee had the highest area jobless rate at 4.4%. Marlboro County continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the state at 6.9%, followed by Allendale County at 6.2%.

The monthly national rate decreased from 4.8% to 4.6%. A broad measure of U.S. unemployment, to include individuals marginally attached to the labor force plus people working only part-time for economic reasons, was 8.3%. At peak employment in February 2020, it was 7.4%.