Unemployment rate dips in Beaufort County

gmartin@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2011 

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The unemployment rate in Beaufort County dropped from 9.4 to 8.7 percent in September, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Statewide, the unemployment rate declined from 11.1 to 11 percent, still above the national average of 9.1 percent.

"It's reflective of a slowly recovering economy," said Charlie Clark, spokeswoman for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, noting that tourism is still having a positive effect on the local economy.

The fall tourism season is also creating job opportunities in northern Beaufort County, according to Jason Gardner, spokesman for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gardner said that job opportunities generated by ongoing construction at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort might also be partly contributing to the dip in local unemployment.

In Beaufort County, the number of unemployed fell from 6,171 in August to 5,637 in September, according to the state department's report released Friday. In September 2010, there were 5,406 unemployed in the county.

For the fifth straight month, the state's labor force increased, and is now estimated at 2,169,414. September also saw a statewide rise in employment of over 7,000 workers.

The government added 9,700 employees statewide in September, mainly in education services. Manufacturing, which has seen gains in 10 of the past 12 months, declined by 2,000 jobs in September but remains up 9,500 from a year ago.

According to Doug Woodward, economics professor at the University of South Carolina, the report indicates that the state is slowly recovering from the recession.

"It's a good sign that the labor market has recovered enough for so many people to be actively looking for work," Woodward said. "We're slowly digging our way out of the jobs crisis."

Woodward also urged caution in assessing the September report. "These signs aren't very strong," he said. "Never try to read too much into a one-month trend."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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