Sumter unemployment rate jumps dramatically in January

The Sumter County unemployment rate jumped nearly a full point in January, as various negative factors pushed the local economic figure higher.

According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, Sumter’s unemployment rate climbed to 5.9 percent in January, up dramatically from the 5.0 percent reported in December 2016.

At the end of last year, Sumter’s economy experienced a slight uptick in its unemployment rate, to 5.0 percent, as approximately 200 people entered the workforce, perhaps seeking seasonal employment typically associated with the holiday season.  These type of labor force upticks can often indicate a sense of economic optimism, as workers that have previously left the work force return, believing they might be able to find work.  Before the end-of-the-year uptick in the local labor force, more than 1,700 people had left the Sumter workforce.

Unfortunately, according to the latest reports, the cautious optimism promoted by December’s figures failed to come to fruition for Sumter in January.  In fact, the latest numbers tell a significantly different story.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sumter’s labor force continued to increase in January, by about 250 people, however more than 130 jobs left the area during the same month.  As a result, the Sumter unemployment rate remains lower than the same time the year before – BLS reported the local economy had a 6.5 unemployment rate in January 2016 – but is lower only because the year-over-year labor force reductions are greater than the drop in local jobs.

An estimated 41,865 people were employed in Sumter during January 2017, roughly 85 fewer than in January 2016, and has more than 600 fewer jobs than a decade ago, the BLS says.

Sumter continues to have the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in South Carolina, and is much higher than the overall rate in South Carolina, which sits at 4.4 percent.

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