SC unemployment rate drops slightly as big change looms for claim seekers


ByPatrick Phillips|April 16, 2021 at 9:50 AM EDT - Updated April 16 at 9:50 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped slightly in March, Department of Employment and Workforce officials said Friday, days ahead of a big change those filing claims for unemployment benefits will face.

The state’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1% in March, down from 5.2% in February.

SCDEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey said his agency continues “to be encouraged by the progress being made in the state’s economic recovery” as South Carolinians return to work.

“Over the past few months, we have moved our focus to filling the open and posted jobs in the state,” Ellzey said.

He said there are 85,000 job openings posted across South Carolina while approximately 116,000 people are receiving unemployment benefits each week.

“That really does not make sense, and we have to get people to start looking for jobs,” he said.

To that end, SCDRW officials say a change is coming quickly.

Ellzey said the agency waived the work search requirement, which is part of state regulation, at the beginning of the pandemic. The waiving of the requirement was made to would-be workers and employers “to navigate through COVID-19.” But he now says it is time to reactivate the requirement.

Beginning Sunday, SCDEW will reinstate the two weekly work search requirements for claimants.

Each week, claimants will need to complete two tasks to remain eligible for UI benefits:

If a claimant can certify their claim each week, they can complete the work searches.

“We have made it clear to claimants, that if they do not perform the two work searches for a claim week, they will not be paid unemployment benefits. It is as simple as that,” Ellzey said.

He called it “a positive step forward” that will bring employers and job seekers together.

February’s 5.2% seasonally adjusted unemployment rate marked a slight drop from January’s 5.3% rate. SCDEW reported a 5.6% rate in December.

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