SC unemployment rate drops to 9.5%, lowest in three years

South Carolina's unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in December 2011, a 0.4 percentage point drop from November's 9.9 percent rate.

This marks the fourth consecutive monthly rate drop. The rate is down 1.6 percent from 2011's high of 11.1 percent in August.

It's the lowest rate since December 2008 when unemployment stood at 9.2 percent.

The national unemployment rate saw a decrease from 8.7 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December.

There were healthy month-to-month increases in Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+1,500) and Manufacturing (+1,200).

Leisure and Hospitality reported a loss (-3,500), and Government reflected a decrease (-2,800) since November.

The number of online job ads in South Carolina, as reported by the Conference Board's Help Wanted Online Index, had a small increase of about 500 (to 45,900) from November to December. Nationally, there was an upswing in ads posted (+93,800) in December.

Online job ads in the state were about 4,300 higher than December 2010. The number of jobseekers per job opening was 4.7 in December, down from 5.1 in November.

"We are excited to see unemployment continue its steady decline in South Carolina," said SC Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director Abraham J. Turner. "This is good news for South Carolinians, but there is still much work to be done as we continue to bring unemployment down. We encourage both businesses and job seekers to take advantage of the free services DEW offers through the SC Works centers across the state and online at At this website, citizens can search for openings in their communities and upload their resumes. Additionally, employers can search for qualified candidates."

Here's how our counties did:

Marion 17.9

Marlboro 17.3

Dillon 14.2

Horry 11.6

Darlington 10.7

Georgetown 10.4

Florence 10.0

Because of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual benchmarking and revision process, employment and labor force data for January will not be published until mid-March.