SC unemployment rate drops for 4th straight month

Columbia, SC - SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - Marion County continues to sport one of South Carolina's highest unemployment rates in May, despite a statewide drop in overall claims for a fourth month in a row.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday the state's jobless rate dipped to an even 11 percent in May. The agency reported a revised unemployment rate of 11.5 percent in April.

Officials say the state's total employment increased by 3,300 jobs in May.

Non-farm jobs went up by 22,000 for the month, with the biggest increase in government hiring, mostly because of the hiring of workers for the U.S. Census. The hospitality and business services sectors also had major increases.

"We are encouraged by the trends of the last few months while, at the same time, cautious since state and local budgets face serious shortfalls and the national economy remains fragile," SC Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director John Finan.

While the state's lower unemployment rate shows a sliver of promise, Marion County continues to be a dark spot on the monthly report. The Pee Dee county's unemployment rate went unchanged in May, holding steady at 18.6 percent.

Allendale and Marlboro counties rounded out the top three areas with the worst unemployment, with 18.3 percent and 17.6 percent rates, respectively. Marlboro County's jobless rate had the biggest change in the state in May, dropping 1.8 percent.

Click here for the state's county-by-county list of unemployment rates

The Grand Strand continued to hold steady in the May report, dropping a 10.7 percent rate for the month. From a previous April report, Horry County's jobless rate fell .1 percent.

As the latest unemployment numbers reflect mixed conditions within the state's job market, Dr. Don Schunk, a research economist for Coastal Carolina University, said the state-to-national rate gap is slowly improving.

Since January 2010, Schunk said the difference has fallen from 2.8 percentage points to 1.3 percentage points at the most recent report.

The national jobless rate had dropped slightly in May, to 9.7 percent.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.