- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration touted Monday that South Carolina’s employment reached an all-time high in December, but its release didn’t take into account the state’s growing population.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce called 2013 a banner year for employment, with nearly 2,026,000 people employed in December. The agency notes the state surpassed 2 million people employed in November 2012 and has remained above that since. Haley credits her administration’s job recruitment efforts.

“Having more South Carolinians employed than at any other time in our state’s history didn’t happen by chance - it’s the direct result of Team South Carolina’s strategic effort to recruit and expand businesses in every corner of our state,” Haley said.

Employment fell below 2 million in 2008, as the Great Recession led to growing unemployment numbers that peaked at 11.9 percent in December 2009.

But improving employment figures don’t directly correlate to the unemployment rate, which measures how many people are jobless and looking for work. That’s because South Carolina’s larger population means more jobs are needed. Also, people dropped out of the labor force during the economic downturn.

Although the jobless rate has declined during Haley’s tenure to 6.6 percent in December, unemployment is still double the all-time low of 3.2 percent set in 1998, when there were 252,000 fewer people in the labor force. South Carolina’s jobless rate remained below 4 percent for all of 1998 and 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While acknowledging that population is a factor, Haley spokesman Doug Mayer pointed to numbers showing that the growth rate of employment is outpacing that of population.

Employment rolls in South Carolina increased by 84,300 people, or 4.3 percent, between January 2011 and December 2013. That compares to a 3.7 percent increase over the same period in the number of residents 16 and older who can work, for an additional 132,500 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Department of Employment and Workforce expects to release January’s unemployment rate March 17. February’s figures will be released March 28.

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