South Carolina unemployment claims fall, but the labor shortage lingers — where is the workforce?

Nation and World News

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce reported a pandemic-low for the number of initial unemployment claims this week, but that doesn’t mean the labor shortage is coming to an end any time soon, according to DEW economists.

Erica Von Nessen is an economist and labor market expert at the SCDEW. She told News13 initial unemployment claims now are lower than they were in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic.

“During the peak of the pandemic, we were seeing 60,000 — 80,000 initial claims per week,” she said. “Now we’re down, I think the past six weeks it’s averaged 1,500 claims per week.”

She also says they are not seeing much “layoff activity.”

“Businesses are really trying to hold onto the workers they have, increasing hours, changing store times to adjust to the staffing shortages and that is something that appears to be with us for the foreseeable future just given the demographics changes that we’ve undergone and will continue to undergo.”

Von Nessen said there are less older people returning to the workforce than expected.

“They maybe retired a little earlier than they were anticipating, and we really haven’t seen them come back into the workforce as much, she said”

Two other groups the DEW said left the workforce in large part: women with children and teenagers.

“We saw quite a dip in the number of high school and college-aged workers and those are often the ones who take the leisure and hospitality jobs, especially summer and seasonal work,” Von Nessen said.

While many thought ending pandemic related unemployment benefits would remedy the labor shortage, Von Nessen believes the solution is more complex than that. In part because while the number of working-aged Americans has increased 2.2% since the start of the pandemic, the workforce has only increased by 1.6%.

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