Summer hires begin to heat up Grand Strand job market

Myrtle Beach, SC - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As warmer temperatures make their way into the Grand Strand, so are tourists and the need for area businesses to operate at full capacity.

New numbers released this week show South Carolina's unemployment rate is holding steady at 12.4 percent, despite Horry County's above-the-average rate at 15 percent. With the job market acting as a double-edged blade for those looking for work, could the summer sun bring a much needed sizzle to the job market?

The answer: It all depends who you ask.

"We'll have staff at full capacity this year, just as we would have in previous years," said Jason Morgan, general manager of Paradise Resort in Myrtle Beach.

Morgan says the resort took a slight beating during the winter months, but hopes the success he's seen in the number of tourists filtering in and out of the rooms is a sign of good things to come.

"I think the second week of June is really going to kick off the summer and I think it's going to be a really great 2010," he predicted.

As the pace of room sales and guests picks up, so does a critical need for employees to help operate and manage Paradise Resort. Morgan says the resort has brought back many people who were laid off over the winter months, and has been promoting positions from within.

He says he plans on hiring an additional 10 to 15 people for the upcoming summer season - a number Morgan adds is just right for the mid-sized resort.

"The season hits us a little more quickly than most would think, so we'd like to get them in a little earlier so we have them trained for when it does start to get very busy," Morgan said.

Hiring and training is also on the mind of Mark Lazarus, owner of Wild Water and Wheels in Surfside Beach. The water park draws thousands through his gates each summer and says the Spring Break season is the perfect time of year to recruit his employees.

"We have a good many returning that always come back [to the park]," he said. "We're just looking for some good kids to hang around for the summer."

Lazarus plans to reel in his future employees at a job fair from March 29 through April 2. Prospective employees of any age can apply to work in positions from lifeguards to tube bussers at the park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

When the job fair is all said and done, Lazarus hopes to hire 150 people.

"We'll fill anywhere from 500 to 1,000 applications," Lazarus predicted. "More applicants will be coming out than ever before because of the high unemployment rate and people just looking for a job."

While Lazarus will be playing his part this summer to help the locally unemployed, workers at the Coastal Workforce Center fear the economy will cause other businesses to play it safe.

Mary Nell Smith, spokeswoman with the Coastal Workforce Center, says she isn't seeing the same number of job ads being placed with the agency as in past years. She says she starts to see a slight rise in ads in February, steadily increasing through the springtime months.

Could the hottest months of 2010 prove to be disastrous to the Horry County job market?

"I'm not sure I'd agree with that," said Morgan. "January and February were tough months. Starting in March and moving forward through April and May and onward to the end of the season, we're looking to do very well."

Economist Don Schunk at Coastal Carolina University predicts the job market won't return to pre-recession levels until 2015.

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