Sumter bests U.S. jobless rate for1st time in 14 years

March 31, 2014

BY BRADEN BUNCH (803) 774-1201

The job picture in Sumter County is better than the national average for the first time in nearly 14 years, according to figures released by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce on Friday.

New positive numbers from the DEW's monthly unemployment rate report also indicate more people were working in Sumter County in February than have been in nearly seven years. By adding nearly 300 jobs in February while also seeing the local area labor force shrink by 400 people, the local area unemployment rate fell dramatically to 5.9 percent, its lowest level since May 2001.

The national rate sits at 6.7 percent. The last time Sumter County had a better unemployment rate than the national average was October 2000.

Statewide, the unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent, its lowest point since April 2008. For many years, South Carolina had one of the 10 highest unemployment rates in the nation. With the new figures, the Palmetto State is now threatening to have one of the 10 lowest rates in the nation, as only 15 states have better employment ratios.

As expected in a state showing dramatic improvement, Sumter's 1.5 percentage-point drop in February was indicative of the rest of the counties in South Carolina. In fact, all 46 counties saw their rates drop by at least a full percentage point in the latest figures. Both Clarendon and Lee counties saw their unemployment rate drop by 1.4 percentage points, with Clarendon falling to 7.8 percent, while Lee fell to 6.8 percent. The declines in these counties, however, had far more to do with a shrinking labor force than new employment.

County numbers, which are not seasonally adjusted to remove the effects of cyclical events like tourist-related or educational-based hirings, can fluctuate more dramatically than state figures, which are seasonally adjusted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. This helps explain why the South Carolina rate did not drop as significantly as the counties.

Still, a year ago, exactly half of the state's counties were experiencing double-digit unemployment. In February, only Marion and Allendale counties had an unemployment rate above 10 percent.

According to the DEW, at the same point last year, Sumter County had an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.


This article reprinted with permission from Sumter's only daily newspaper, The Item. To subscribe, visit