Jobless rate up, equipment causing problems for ESC

South Carolina’s jobless rate last month was once again 12.1 percent, the same level hit in June. Between June and October the rate slid slightly, as more people stopped looking for jobs, at least temporarily.
Construction and manufacturing continue cut backs. The national unemployment rate last month rose above 10 percent for the first time in 26 years.
South Carolina workers are now eligible for almost two years of unemployment checks. President Obama signed a $24 billion economic stimulus bill this month that included another 20 weeks of benefits for jobless workers.
The new S.C. Employment Security Commission Interim Director Samuel Foster says each time a new round of extension unemployment checks is issued, it’s a strain on his agency, especially because of equipment that’s more than two decades old.
“We’ve had at least three extensions, and consequently, each of them are a separate entity that has to be entered into the data system,” said Foster.  “To get it all done in a timely fashion is not easy, particularly with the mechanism now in place.  I’ve learned since I’ve been here since I asked questions about it that the present equipment is more than 25 years old. ”  
Foster says his department’s equipment was good for what it was designed for, but now it’s causing a problem.
Some federal extensions are set to end the end of December unless they are extended by Congress. In additional to federal benefits, 26 weeks of benefits are offered by the state of South Carolina.
Some economists say the job outlook will only grow worse. S.C. Board of Economic Advisers Director John Rainey says the jobless rate may top 13 percent before it begins a steady decline in more than a year, and he says it may take another five years to fall back down to the level where it was last spring.
The number of South Carolinians working or looking for work rose by 1,880 in October after four straight months of decline. More than 9,700 workers joined the unemployment rolls last month over September. Some of last month’s hires were temporary agency workers, as well school-related jobs, and retail where stores have begun holiday sales preparation.
September’s revised state jobless rate of 11.7 percent was the nation’s fifth highest.