SC unemployment drops as state economy reopens

South Carolina unemployment decreased significantly since last month, according to a jobs report released Friday.

Unemployment reached 12.8% in April following statewide shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic that halted much of the economy. It dipped to 12.4% in May and in June, dropped to 8.7%.

Gov. Henry McMaster was optimistic following the new report from the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

“This news shows that South Carolina is leading the way in our economic recovery efforts and that we can, and will, overcome any challenge by working together, being smart, and showing compassion for our neighbors,” he said in a prepared statement. “We must maintain this momentum by continuing to get South Carolinians back to work in the safest way possible because we must ensure the future economic health of our state and our people.”

Greenville County’s unemployment rate reflected the statewide trend, dropping from 12.1% in May to 8.4% in June. The unemployment rate in the county last June was 2.7%.

SC coronavirus map: A look at COVID-19 cases by county and zip code

South Carolina ahead of national trend

South Carolina was also doing significantly better than the rest of the country, Employment and Workforce Executive Director Dan Ellzey said. The national unemployment rate declined from 13.3% in May to 11.1% in June.

“These positive economic numbers would not have been possible without the reopening of the state,” Ellzey said. “It is encouraging to see that our businesses can re-open and comply with strict safety protocols to protect employees and customers. The continued success of our businesses, to both re-open and remain safe, is imperative for the state’s economic recovery.”

There are about 210,721 people who remain unemployed in South Carolina, according to the latest numbers, 141,558 more than the same time, last year.

Recovery in leisure, hospitality other sectors

Year-over-year losses in several key sectors were made up between May and June when about 105,000 jobs came back online in the leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, government and education and health sectors. 

Ellzey called it a promising economic indicator. Leisure and hospitality jobs increased 36,300 and most other industries aside from government and mining and logging seeing growth as well, but not fully erasing losses from the past year.

“There is still a long way to go and there’s much work to be done,” Ellzey said. “We still have South Carolinians filing initial claims at a rate that is double of what we saw in 2009.” 

Haley Walters covers public safety, crime and breaking news. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @_haleywalters

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