SC unemployment drops to 5.7 percent in February

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in February, marking the steepest one-month drop recorded since officials started keeping track of employment numbers almost 40 years ago.

The Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday that the drop, down from 6.4 percent the previous month, also marked the ninth straight month that unemployment has dropped in South Carolina.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in February, something officials attributed to more people entering the job market to look for work.

Officials said it was the first time in 16 years that the South Carolina unemployment rate has been a full point below the national rate.

"South Carolina's economy continues to grow. Businesses are confident and have hired more South Carolinians than ever before," said Cheryl Stanton, the executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce.

The department said employment in the state reached 2,039,455, the highest number ever recorded. The number of unemployed dropped by almost 14,000.

There are now about 124,000 people unemployed in South Carolina, which has a population of almost 4.8 million, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures released this week.

The financial activities, government and manufacturing sectors went up last month by about 1,600 jobs. Jobs in trade, education and health services and hospitality sectors were down by 5,300.

But while jobs in hospitality were down on a monthly basis, there were 7,700 more people working in the industry in South Carolina than a year ago. That increase led all job sectors during the past year. Tourism is an $18 billion industry in South Carolina.

There were also 5,900 more people working in trade transportation and utilities and 4,700 more working in manufacturing last month than in February of 2013.

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