Editor's note: This article has been updated with May unemployment data.
Unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic have topped 600,000 in South Carolina.
For the week ending June 13, 19,366 people filed initial unemployment claims in South Carolina, a decrease of 3,368 claims from the previous week, according to data from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
Since March 15, the total number of claims has risen to 601,631, DEW said, and the agency has paid more than $2.2 billion in a combination of state and federal benefits.
The state's unemployment rate dropped slightly to 12.5% in May, down from April's revised estimated of 12.8% percent, DEW said Friday. Unemployment estimates decreased by 142 people during the month to 303,218, an increase of 229,360 from May 2019.
“This is a significant milestone and true indicator of the widespread effects of COVID-19 on our state, workforce and economy,” Dan Ellzey, DEW executive director, said in a news release. “This represents a significant number of people who have lost their jobs. … On a positive note, our agency is hearing from numerous businesses who are actively looking for employees and industries who are busily ramping up to respond to consumer and market demands.”
Nationally, 1.5 million people filed for unemployment for the week ending June 13, a decrease of 58,000 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (.pdf). The national unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% in May from 14.7% in April.
Greenville County saw 1,862 unemployment claims in the week, followed by Richland County with 1,855. Charleston County had 1,311, Horry County 1,096 and Spartanburg County 1,071.
Unemployment increased in Richland and Lexington counties from April to May, going from 9% to 10.2% in Richland and from 7.6% to 8.2% in Lexington. In May 2019, unemployment stood at 2.7% in Richland County and 2.3% in Lexington County.
Horry County has the highest unemployment rate in the state, though that rate dropped from 22.5% in April to 18.6% in May.
DEW’s call center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday. The agency said its highest-volume call days are Monday and Tuesday, with Saturday the lowest-volume day.