SC workforce shortage slows strong recovery in COVID economy



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South Carolina has surpassed nearly all of the economic damage from COVID-19, according to a new report.

But an issue that has haunted the state since the start of the pandemic – labor shortages – continues to hold back South Carolina. Employment in the state is still down nearly 13%, or about 40,000 jobs, from before the pandemic.

The new information comes from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business Economic Outlook report, released Tuesday. Speakers at an event on Tuesday where the report was shared included economists and Mick Mulvaney, a former state lawmaker and congressman, who was the former acting chief of staff to former President Donald Trump and the Director of Administration of the Bureau of Management and Budget.

The report says the recovery has been strongest in the upstate and along the state’s coast, all of which have recovered jobs at a higher rate than the state as a whole. The state’s unemployment rate sits at 3.9% in October, down from a pandemic height of 12%.

“There is no doubt that South Carolina’s economy is doing well as we approach 2022,” USC economist Joey Von Nessen said in a press release. “Barring further setbacks resulting from new variants of COVID-19, we expect South Carolina to be fully recovered next year. “

Here’s where the employment recovery is in nine metropolitan areas across and near the state:

â–ª Augustus: 77.5%

â–ª Charleston: 84.1%

â–ª Charlotte / Rock Hill: 81.8%

â–ª Colombia: 81.8%

â–ª Florence: 80%

â–ª Greenville / Spartanburg: 88.6%

â–ª Hilton Head: 92.2%

â–ª Myrtle Beach: 89.2%

â–ª Summer: 74.4%

The state’s labor shortage has probably been the most visible form of economic hardship South Carolina has faced since the start of the pandemic.

Industries such as the hospitality industry have posted tens of thousands of jobs only to see them sit vacant for months, or end up with high turnover as workers jump from job to job. For much of the past year, the state has also struggled to keep jobs, losing workers at times it should have seen people returning.

Yet despite the fact that thousands of jobs remain open across the state, many of the workers who held them are not actually unemployed, according to economic data released last month. The commerce, transportation and utilities industry, for example, has increased by more than 10,000 jobs compared to before the pandemic. Part of the increase could be due to the shift in industry for workers, leaving behind often low-paid and high-stress industries like restaurants and hotels, said Laura Ullrich, Federal Reserve economist.

The lack of workers returning to the hospitality industry has created a difficult period during the busy summer tourist season this year for businesses and workers who have returned to their old jobs. Many state leaders and business owners have repeatedly said ending extended federal unemployment benefits would solve many problems and force people back into the workforce.

Yet when the expanded benefits ended in June, little changed.

Von Nessen and USC economist Douglas Woodward said the labor shortage could worsen in the years to come.

“About two-thirds of people who move to South Carolina are aged 55 and over. This means that a majority of immigrants are close to the traditional retirement age or have passed the traditional age, which is likely to exacerbate the existing labor shortage in the state over time ”, Von Nessen said in the statement. “Companies are already adjusting to this labor shortage, but the silver lining is that for the workers themselves, this is the cheapest job in a generation. “

The labor shortage is not the only major economic problem facing the state. Rapid inflation this year has damaged the purchasing power of much of Palmetto State’s residents.

For much of the fall, travel and daily living became more expensive due to rising oil prices affecting airline tickets and the cost at the pump. That inflationary pressure has finally eased in recent weeks, but prices are still far from pre-pandemic lows, when gasoline could often cost as little as $ 2 a gallon in much of the state. .

Food prices have also increased this year, affecting everything from turkeys to cream cheese, hitting the budgets of low- and middle-income people even more. Inflation has also affected house prices and rents, as thousands of people have moved into the state and reduced the supply of housing.

“The current high inflation rate has real consequences for the Carolinians of the South,” said Von Nessen. “About 40% of South Carolina’s workforce has suffered a loss of purchasing power this year due to rising prices. “

This story was originally published 7 December 2021 13:05.

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Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in journalism and political communication. He started working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has signatures in three of the state’s largest print media as well as the Texas Tribune covering state policy, environment, housing. and the LGBTQ + community.

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