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SC Unemployment Up Slightly In January

By MEG KINNARD

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) â¿¿ South Carolina's unemployment rate continued to creep upward in January, state officials announced Monday.

The state's jobless rate was 8.7 percent in January, according to the Department of Employment and Workforce. That's up from a revised rate of 8.6 percent in December and 0.4 percent higher than one year ago.

The national jobless rate also increased slightly in January, from 7.8 percent in December to 7.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Carolina's unemployment was tied with Georgia for the nation's ninth-highest unemployment. California and Rhode Island tied for the country's highest jobless rates, at 9.8 percent.

In South Carolina, trade and transportation sectors marked 9,600 in job losses in January. Government employment also dropped by 8,500 jobs, a loss the agency said was expected because of seasonal layoffs and the closing of schools between semesters.

Professional and business services, education and health services and leisure hospitality jobs fell by a combined total of 12,700. The information sector was the only segment of South Carolina's economy to add jobs in January, with 600 additional positions.

The state's peak unemployment rate was 12 percent in November 2009.

Unemployment was up in all but two of South Carolina's 46 counties. Marion County had the state's highest jobless rate at 19.2 percent, while unemployment was lowest in Lexington County at 6.8 percent.

Workforce officials said they planned to release information about South Carolina's February unemployment figures later this month. The director of South Carolina's unemployment agency resigned earlier this year following weeks of criticism from legislators about the ending of one-on-one help at rural offices. Abraham Turner's resignation came a day after senators demanded answers for why the agency, since August, has given 69 employees raises totaling nearly $440,000, but is cutting one-on-one help for people seeking benefits in 17 rural offices statewide.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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