Bamberg and Orangeburg counties had the highest unemployment rates in South Carolina in July.
Bamberg County had the highest unemployment rate out of the state’s 46 counties for July at 12.1 percent, up from 9.4 percent in June, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
Orangeburg County had the second-highest unemployment rate in the state at 11.8 percent, up from 8.4 percent the month before.
It is the first time the two counties have had double-digit unemployment rates since January of this year.
Calhoun County had the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.8 percent. This was up from 6 percent in June.
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said the county’s biggest unemployment spikes are typically in June and July.
“It is part of the mandatory manufacturing shutdown as companies retool and repair their machinery before it gears back up,” he said.
Robinson said three of the county’s largest manufacturers — Husqvarna, Allied Air and Koyo — have shutdowns each year where employees are laid off.
But unemployment rates during the summer months have been going down for the county, Robinson said. “We are still trending in the right way.”
He also noted Bamberg County residents employed at the manufacturing plants are also feeling the impact of seasonal layoffs.
Orangeburg County unemployment rates are typically at the lowest points in November and December, he said.
Despite the increases, unemployment rates for all three counties are lower than at this same time a year ago.
Calhoun County Development Commission Executive Director Pat Black said he is not alarmed about the rate going up, noting a lot depends on how the rate is calculated.
“No industries closed. I think it is seasonal,” he said.
Black said the county’s rates are not seasonally adjusted. Regular impacts on unemployment, such as schools being out for the summer, are not taken into consideration in the calculations.
Black said if the statistics were taken during a week when temporary employees were off, it would impact the numbers.
Calhoun County continues to aggressively seek new economic opportunities, Black said.
“We hope for better numbers next month,” he said.
Statewide, the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, up from 5.3 percent in June. Nationally, the unemployment rate increased to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent in June.
The unemployment rate in other area counties:
Allendale: 11.4 percent
Barnwell: 9.9 percent
Dorchester: 5.8 percent
Lexington: 5.1 percent
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Contact the writer: 803-533-5551