By MEG KINNARD
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) â¿¿ South Carolina's unemployment rate went up for the first time in months in December, state officials said Friday, ending four months of decreases.
The Department of Employment and Workforce said the state's jobless rate was 8.4 percent in December. That's more than a full percentage point lower than the same time a year ago.
Before last month, South Carolina unemployment had dropped for four straight months. In November, state officials said the monthly mark of 8.3 percent was South Carolina's lowest unemployment rate since October 2008.
The state's peak unemployment rate was 12 percent in November 2009.
Employment and Workforce executive director Abraham Turner said the December increase was attributed in part to a seasonal drop of nearly 6,000 jobs in South Carolina's leisure and hospitality industry. The government sector also dropped by 2,300 jobs, and professional and business services went down by 1,700.
"Typically, we see a small decrease in employment in December because of seasonal declines" in those three sectors, Turner said.
Trade, transportation and utilities posted monthly job gains of 2,400. Education jobs were up by 1,100.
In December, the number of unemployed South Carolinians grew by more than 3,000 to 180,000. The state's number of employed people went up by more than 5,000, to nearly 1.7 million. The state's labor force was more than 2.1 million, an expansion of about 8,500.
Unemployment went up in all but three of South Carolina's 46 counties last month. The jobless rate was highest in Marion County, at 17 percent. Lexington County had South Carolina's lowest unemployment, at 6.6 percent.
Nationally, unemployment last month was 7.8 percent. South Carolina's jobless rate in December was tied with Oregon for the 11th-highest in the nation.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP