Job prospects look bright in Lexington, Richland counties

Lexington and Richland counties ended 2016 with lower unemployment rates than the year before.

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Lexington County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.3 percent. Richland County’s unemployment rate was 4 percent. Both counties ended 2016 with a significantly lower unemployment rate than the year before.

The joblessness rate for December 2015 in Lexington County was 4.3 percent. It was 5.1 percent in Richland County.

Leaders in the jobs industry see reason for optimism.

“Companies are hiring,” said Northan Golden, owner of Express Employment Professionals, which has locations in Columbia and Lexington.

“We’ve been seeing a recovery for a while after it turned in 2015,” he said. “The trend in 2016 was positive.”

Golden said employers are seeking skilled and semi-skilled labor. Plumbers, electricians, welders, and machine operators are the areas where hiring is brisk. Northan said drivers are needed too.

“There is a need for drivers with a license and a good driving record,” he said. “And there is a high demand for CDL (commercial driver’s license) drivers.”

Despite “guarded optimism,” Northan said there is some “uncertainty related to possible political turmoil.”

But if South Carolina’s last year is any indicator, things look good.

“South Carolinians continued to find work in December as employment rose to a new record high and unemployment dropped for the eighth consecutive month,” according to a S.C. Deparetment of Employment and Workforce report.

“The number of people working in December rose by to a record level of 2,208,923. The number of unemployed declined by 3,204 to 98,962, the lowest level since April 2001,” according to the report.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate estimate was down to 4.3 percent in December.

The number of people working in Lexington County was about 142,000. About 5,000 more people were looking for a job. About 193,000 people were working in Richland County, with about 8,000 who were looking for employment.