SC’s June Employment Situation

Unemployment Rate Falls; Nearly 2,100 People Find Employment in June

The state’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.6 percent in June from the May level of 6.8 percent. South Carolina’s employment level continued to improve in June as nearly 2,100 people found work. This marks 67 consecutive months that employment has increased, reaching another historic high of 2,112,034 people working.

After rising sixteen consecutive months, the labor force declined slightly from May to June by 2,307 to 2,260,791 people. The number of unemployed decreased by nearly 4,401 to 148,757.

The labor force has grown by 76,198 people over the last twelve months. Since June 2014 the level of unemployed individuals increased by 11,929 people. Since a year ago, 64,269 job seekers have found work.

Nationally, the unemployment rate declined from 5.5 percent in May to June’s estimate of 5.3 percent.

“Our economy is making phenomenal progress with 67 consecutive months of employment growth. Over the last 5½ years, there are more than 215,000 additional South Carolinians working, an expansion of more than 10 percent of the state’s workforce.”

Read the full employment report here.

State Makes Final Unemployment Trust Fund Loan Payment

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DEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton is joined by Gov. Nikki Haley, members of the SC General Assembly and business representatives from across the state to announce the early payoff of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund loan. (DEW)

Early Payment Saves Millions In Tax Dollars, Reestablishes Solvency

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced that the almost $1 billion federal loan used to help pay state unemployment insurance benefits since 2008 has been repaid. DEW made a final $120 million early payment today to the U.S. Department of Labor. The deadline to pay off the loan was scheduled for November 2015. However, early and voluntary payments on the loan by DEW between 2011 and 2015 led to returning the trust fund to solvency, saving businesses more than $12 million in interest payments.

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Depiction of the life of Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund loan, now fully paid off. (DEW)

Governor Nikki R. Haley and DEW Executive Director, Cheryl M. Stanton, were joined by Sen. Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee), Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson), Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee), Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington), and several key members of the business community at the State House today for the announcement.

“This loan payoff is truly a cause for celebration,” said Governor Nikki Haley. “Restoring solvency to the state’s unemployment trust fund is another step in our state becoming debt free and is quantitative proof that our citizens are finding work, businesses are strengthening our workforce and economy, DEW is cracking down on fraudulent claims and the South Carolina is truly open for business.”

The loan, which reached its peak of $977.7 million in March 2011, was issued by the federal government during the height of the Great Recession. As the recession remained, South Carolina was forced to borrow to ensure that unemployment payments could continue during the economic decline.

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Timeline of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund loan payoff. The loan peaked at $977.7 million in March 2011 and was satisfied early through voluntary payments. (DEW)

“Thanks to the great work of businesses now employing the most South Carolinians in our state’s history, the work of the General Assembly on tightening eligibility of benefits and the great work of employees at DEW protecting the integrity of the trust fund, we have repaid the federal government early, and are now on track to rebuild the fund to an adequate level for the state. This has been a true team effort with our business community and workforce training partners working tirelessly to not only create jobs, but also to fill them with skilled workers, and actively fighting fraud and abuse to the system,” said Director Stanton.

Senator Thomas Alexander said, “South Carolina’s ability to pay off its unemployment trust fund loan early is a true testament to the fortitude of the employers in the Palmetto State, the Department of Employment and Workforce, and our state’s General Assembly. Working together, we are continuing to demonstrate that South Carolina leads the nation as a business friendly state.”

Thirty-six different states have taken advances from the federal government during the last six years. However, since the inception of the loan, South Carolina has been the only state to continually maintain the full 5.4% Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) credit, saving the business community millions of dollars in higher federal taxes.

“By paying off the loan early, we are saving employers in our state from having to pay over $12 million in federal unemployment taxes,” said Representative Bill Sandifer. “We can then use that money to grow our economy, create jobs, and find innovative ways to put more money back in the pockets of South Carolina taxpayers, which is something we strive to do whenever possible.”

Three Additional S.C. Counties Certified as Work Ready

SC Work Ready Communities

Gov. Nikki Haley announced today that three more South Carolina counties are now certified as work ready, continuing to outpace the nation in an initiative that showcases the highly skilled workforce that businesses require in a competitive economy.

The latest South Carolina Work Ready Communities (SCWRC) are Hampton, Oconee and Spartanburg counties.

“Communities across South Carolina are continuing to showcase our state’s greatest asset – its people and the strong, loyal workforce they make up,” Gov. Haley said. “The certification of these three counties puts South Carolina one step closer to becoming the nation’s first certified work ready state, and truly represents our dedication to providing businesses with a workforce capable of meeting the demands of any industry.”

The three newly-certified counties have all met specified workforce and education goals, demonstrating to businesses a strong workforce and commitment to economic growth. The Palmetto State now has 32 counties with this designation, which is more than any other state in the nation.

“We are excited every time a county earns the certified work ready designation,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. “Becoming a certified work ready community creates an opportunity for citizens in that county because it sends a clear message that the community is open for business, and companies who invest here will find the workforce they need to be successful.”

SCWRC provides a framework to strengthen economic development using a community-based approach grounded in certifying counties as work ready.

To become a South Carolina Work Ready Community, a county has to reach or exceed goals in earning National Career Readiness Certificates (achieved through WorkKeys® testing), meet or exceed the three-year graduation rate average or improvement percentage, and engage business support.    The latest work ready counties join the ranks of 29 others that have been certified since the initiative began in 2013. Find a map of certified counties here.

For additional information, visit www.scworkready.org.

JAG-SC Shines Spotlight on Community Service

Young people serving their communities took the spotlight recently at the Jobs for America’s Graduates-SC (JAG-SC) annual Career Development Conference.

The annual event, held April 30 at Brookland Baptist Banquet and Conference Center in West Columbia, featured more than 600 students from 25 high schools.

Students from Swansea High received a Jefferson Award for community service.

Students from Swansea High received a Jefferson Award for community service.

U.S. Marshal Kelvin Washington, who delivered a motivational speech to the group, encouraged the young people to place service over self.

“Take care of the folks that are not in a position to take care of themselves,” Washington said. “Changes in your community begin with changes in you.”

JAG-SC students’ dedication to improving their communities was evident in projects presented at the conference. This academic year, JAG-SC schools partnered with the Jefferson Awards Students in Action program. Founded by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1972, the Jefferson Awards Foundation is dedicated to activating and celebrating public service.

So far this school year, JAG-SC schools logged more than 25,000 volunteer hours, according to Jefferson Awards Regional Director Heather Love. During the conference, the top three schools delivered oral presentations outlining their service projects. Swansea High, which runs a food bank for the community, received top honors.

Also at the conference, Manning High was crowned the state champion after collecting the most points from all of the day’s competitive events, which covered topics such as interviewing skills, public speaking, decision making and essay writing.

Luis Romero of Swansea High won the Governor’s Award, given annually to recognize the JAG-SC student who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and commitment to his or her goals.

Coordinated by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce, JAG-SC is a high school dropout prevention program focused on academic success and career readiness skills. Currently in its 10th year, it has served more than 8,000 students.

With the help of a dedicated career specialist at each participating school, JAG-SC students work on skills identified by businesses as essential to successful employment. The S.C. program has been consistently recognized at the national level for its success in equipping young people for life beyond high school.

 

Seven Additional S.C. Counties Certified as Work Ready

COLUMBIA—Seven counties were recognized today for achieving certification through the South Carolina Work Ready Communities (SCWRC) initiative. The counties are:  Barnwell, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Lee, Lexington, and Marion.

Gov. Nikki Haley announced that more than half of South Carolina’s counties are now certified as work ready, continuing to outpace the nation in an initiative that showcases the skilled workforce that businesses require in a competitive economy.

“We are well on our way to becoming the nation’s first certified work ready state, and that is a huge reason to celebrate in every part of South Carolina,” Gov. Haley said. “This is a perfect example of Team South Carolina coming together to prove how committed we are to training a highly skilled workforce that is capable of meeting every need a company in our state may have.”

The seven newly certified counties have met all needed workforce and education goals, demonstrating to businesses a strong local workforce and commitment to economic growth. The Palmetto State now has 29 counties with this designation, which is more than any other state in the nation.

“Seven more counties gaining certification illustrates just how committed South Carolina is to developing a world-class workforce,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. “We have seen record employment highs in our state over the past year, and with more than half of South Carolina’s counties now certified as work ready communities, this will further pave the way to filling those open jobs with qualified workers.”

To become a South Carolina Work Ready Community, a county has to reach or exceed goals in earning National Career Readiness Certificates (achieved through WorkKeys® testing), meet or exceed the three-year graduation rate average or improvement percentage, and engage business support.

The latest work ready counties join the ranks of 22 others that have been certified since the initiative began in 2013. Find a map of certified counties here.

For additional information, visit www.scworkready.org.

Palmetto State Sees Record-Breaking Year for Number of People Working

According to the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), newly-released figures show that 2014 was a record-breaking year for South Carolina. The numbers show that more South Carolinians were in the labor force working and looking for work by the end of the year than ever before in the state’s history.

In 2014, South Carolina’s employment remained above the two-million mark increasing every month throughout the year. The number of South Carolinians employed in December 2014 was 2,069,190, growing by more than 35,000 since January.

“Amazingly, a comparison of data from January of 2013 to December of 2014, the state has seen an increase in the employment level by approximately 75,000 people, reflecting continued progress over the nearly two-year period,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, DEW Executive Director. “Furthermore, the labor force increased by 46,800 during the year to slightly more than 2.2 million people.”

The employment situation for January will be released March 17, and February’s figures will be released March 27.

*About benchmarking: The Bureau of Labor Statistics re-estimates labor force data annually to take advantage of the latest available information related to unemployment claims, nonfarm employment, population changes, and other data used in generating the estimates.

 

Partnership Forged to Boost S.C. Workforce Services

Gov. Nikki Haley, along with a dozen state leaders, formalized a partnership Thursday that will boost South Carolina’s public workforce system, SC Works.

The ultimate goal is to unify numerous workforce programs into a single, integrated customer-focused network in each local community.

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The following agencies and organizations signed the partnership agreement:

  • Office of the Governor (Office of Economic Opportunity)
  • Department of Employment and Workforce
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services
  • Department of Social Services
  • Indian Development Council
  • Job Corps
  • Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging
  • SC Technical College System
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Department

The formal partnership agreement is the culmination of discussions that began more than a year ago among agencies impacting workforce development. The initiative was spearheaded by the State Workforce Investment Board.

DEW Shows Support for Guard and Reserve

SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton today pledged the agency’s support to employees who serve in the military.

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(Left to right) Midlands ESGR Chairman Bob Kuenzli, Adjutant General Robert Livingston, Joe Smoak of SC ESGR, Cheryl Stanton of DEW, SC ESGR State Chairman Eli Wishart, and Col. Ronald Taylor of the S.C. National Guard

Stanton signed a statement of support for the Guard and Reserve. Adjutant General Robert Livingston, Col. Ronald Taylor of the S.C. National Guard, and Eli Wishart and Bob Kuenzli of the S.C. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) attended a signing ceremony at DEW.

DEW, ESGR and the S.C. National Guard have a long-standing partnership in helping military service members and veterans find meaningful civilian employment through Operation Palmetto Employment. In fact, the veterans’ unemployment rate in South Carolina is sixth lowest in the nation at 4.1 percent.

ESGR informs and educates service members and their civilian employers about  their rights and responsibilities under  the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. Learn more about S.C. ESGR here.

Operation Palmetto Employment has the resources to help businesses hire qualified military candidates and job seekers find employment.  Learn more here.

DEW’s MyBenefits Portal Now Accepting Online Payments

The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is making it easier than ever for unemployment insurance (UI) claimants to pay back debt.

In addition to submitting by mail and automatic draft, claimants may now use the online payment portal via MyBenefits. You may pay with a debit card, credit card or an electronic check.

Click here for a step-by-step guide

An improper payment occurs when someone receives UI benefits that he or she is not eligible for.

If a person has been overpaid for UI benefits, whether fraudulent or non-fraudulent, he or she must repay the debt to DEW or risk the following penalties:

  • Withholding of wages if currently employed
  • Deducting the money owed from federal and/or state income tax refunds
  • Deducting debt from any other money owed by the state

Alternative collection methods can be avoided by either repaying the debt in full or establishing and maintaining a monthly payment plan.  After receiving a Notice of Overpayment of Benefits, you should  immediate action should be taken by calling DEW’s Overpayment Unit at 803.737.2490.

In recent years, DEW’s fraud prevention and detection efforts have dramatically decreased the number of improper payments being made. In 2012, the agency implemented a software system that compares wage data against unemployment data to detect potential conflicts. For example, it can detect if a person who is filing weekly claims is actually earning wages and working.

This process helps DEW better detect both fraud and non-fraud overpayments, identifies the potential fraud sooner, flags the claim and stops payments. With quicker identification, DEW is able to both recoup fraudulent improper payments sooner and prosecute more fraud cases.

DEW has also improved its detection capability by reducing the claims’ audit time frame by 50 percent.

The quicker detection processes have:

  • Reduced the number of potentially fraudulent weeks claimed by 30 percent,
  • Decreased the average amount paid per potentially fraudulent case by 30 percent, and
  • Significantly reduced the average number of fraud cases per quarter by 50 percent.

The new online payment portal is just another step towards efficiency and DEW’s goal of improved improper payment detection, prevention and recovery.

For more information about improper payments and fraud prevention, visit dew.sc.gov/overpayments.

State’s Businesses to Save on Federal Unemployment Taxes for Fourth Consecutive Year

For the fourth consecutive year, S.C. businesses will only pay the minimum 0.6 percent per employee for federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) because the Palmetto State once again met the requirements to obtain the maximum 5.4 percent credit for 2014 FUTA.

South Carolina is the only borrowing state to receive a waiver for the full 5.4 percent. Receiving this credit means S.C. businesses will save up to $140 per worker.

“This is just another example of the positive track our state’s unemployment trust fund is on as we approach solvency in the coming year,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW). “Thanks to diligent fiscal stewardship by our governor and General Assembly, we are able to tell the state’s business community that it will realize the maximum benefits of FUTA cost savings for the fourth year in a row.”

Federal law requires a reduction in the FUTA tax credit (i.e. that the FUTA rate for a state’s employers will increase) when a state has outstanding federal unemployment loans for two consecutive Januarys and has not made sufficient voluntary payments towards the loan and other solvency improvement measures. Such reduction in the FUTA tax credit would be higher when a state has outstanding federal unemployment loans for five consecutive Januarys—which is the case in South Carolina. However, borrowing states like South Carolina can formally ask the U.S. Department of Labor for the credit reduction to be avoided if they meet certain criteria that exhibit fiscal responsibility.

One of the requirements was that South Carolina make a voluntary payment toward the outstanding loan balance before Nov. 10. This year, the state made a $60 million payment in April and a $126 million payment in September. Most importantly, S.C. businesses have seen an 18 to 25 percent reduction in their unemployment taxes since 2011.

South Carolina also has repaid approximately $700 million of the $977 million borrowed from the federal government.

The outstanding balance on the loan is $270 million, and the state is scheduled to repay the loan in full by the end of 2015.