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Unemployment soars to 12.1% in S.C. in April

Staff Report //May 22, 2020//

Unemployment soars to 12.1% in S.C. in April

Staff Report //May 22, 2020//

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South Carolina’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to a record 12.1% in April as more than a quarter of a million people fell off the job rolls from March.

That rate is the highest on record in the history of S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce data dating to 1976. The increase from March’s revised rate of 3.2% is the also the largest month-over-month jump on record, according to a news release from DEW.

The estimated number of residents working fell to 2,089,889 in April, a drop of 238,913 from March and a decrease of 203,982 people from April 2019.

Unemployment estimates increased to 288,022, a jump of 211,653 from the previous month and both the highest level on record and the largest month-over-month increase, according to DEW.

The agency said it has received 515,595 initial unemployment claims since March 15 and paid out more than $1.35 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered nonessential businesses in the state for two months.

Dan Ellzey, DEW executive director, said unemployment estimates are lower than initial claims because of several factors. The agency’s employment survey is taken once a month, while claims are updated weekly. Also, individuals may be furloughed or still working, but at hours reduced enough to make them eligible for unemployment benefits.

Nationally, unemployment soared to 14.7% in April from 4.4% in March. That is both the highest rate and the largest month-over-month increase recorded in data dating to January 1948, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“While South Carolina’s high unemployment rate is shocking compared to the record lows we recently enjoyed, I am sure that this news isn’t a surprise to anyone,” Ellzey said in the release. “As the unemployment rate has increased dramatically to 12.1%, it is significantly less than the U.S. rate of 14.7%.”

South Carolina’s estimated labor force, or people working plus unemployed residents looking for work, decreased to 2,377,911, down 27,260 from March.

The leisure and hospitality industry lost 125,300 jobs, while professional and business services lost 40,700. No state industry reported employment gains during the month, and none have gained jobs year-to-date.

In Richland County, unemployment rose to 9% in April from 2.8% in March. It stood at 2.5% in April 2019. Lexington County saw a jump to 7.7% in April from 2.4% in March and from 2.1% in April 2019.

Ellzey said DEW is focused on making sure all claims are processed and on helping employees and employers navigate the path back to work as nonessential businesses begin to reopen.

“Our agency has a dual role under the umbrella of managing and supporting both employment and workforce through good times and bad, and we will continue to intensify our efforts to support the state,” he said.