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      Jobless claims up in SC, but new jobs could come to Horry County

      HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) - The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce released numbers Friday showing unemployment claims are up. The report says rate increased to 9.4 percent in June from 9.1 percent in May. The numbers are seasonally adjusted.

      But the statistics may improve for Horry County if Brad Lofton has his way. The president of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Redevelopment Corporation is on a mission to bring companies to the area and create 500 jobs by October. His job is on the line as well. So far he's brought 260 and says he's close to securing a major contract.

      "If we can get a couple of these projects over the finish line, I think you're going to see Myrtle Beach and Horry County lead the state this year in job creation. Which will be a first and unprecedented days work in the life of our economic development program," he explains.

      For the last few years, the unemployment office in Conway has been busy with people filing claims and looking for jobs. Since February, Rod Hollis has been one of many searching for employment. He was laid off by a home improvement store. "Out of my 25 plus years of being in the work force, this is the first time I've ever had to rely on unemployment, ever."

      It hasn't been an easy path for him or the hundreds who show up for job fairs. Hollis moved here in 1998 from the Rock Hill area to work in the entertainment industry. He says since then, jobs in that industry have been hard to come by and his wife is on disability.

      "(It's) been very difficult. Not a lot of money to have for just actually getting out and doing the job hunting. A lot of people don't understand when you don't have money coming in you have bills to pay and rent to pay. You don't have a lot of money left over except for eating, and what you have left goes in the gas tank to look for a job," Hollis adds.

      There may be hope for Hollis if a top secret deal nicknamed Project Blue comes through. Lofton and his team are negotiating with a company that could bring more than 1,000 new jobs.

      "At an average wage above our communities average wage with about a 30 million dollar-a-year annual payroll with a 75 million dollar economic impact on the community," says Lofton.

      Many, including Hollis, are interested to see which company may set up shop, and we may know in just a few weeks.

      The national unemployment rate in June was 8.2 percent.