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The T&D Region has reason for optimism based on the statewide economic outlook for 2018. Development here and in nearby counties holds the promise of more jobs.

Orangeburg and Bamberg counties still are among the counties with the highest jobless rates in the state but unemployment is down here and economic development prospects are positive.

The annual economic forecast by University of South Carolina economists with the Darla Moore School of Business is welcome news.

They say that despite a tight labor market, South Carolina’s economy remains strong and stable, and Palmetto State residents can expect that stability to continue this year.

Doug Woodward, director of research, and Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist, presented their 2018 forecast Dec. 8 to nearly 250 of the state’s business and community leaders at the 37th Annual Economic Outlook Conference.

They say South Carolina should see broad-based growth continue across most industries with accompanying gains in employment and income.

Von Nessen said the single best indicator of economic performance – job creation – is expected to grow at 2.1 percent in 2018.

“Although our current economic expansion is now in its ninth year, it’s important to remember that economic expansions don’t die of old age,” Von Nessen said. “Market fundamentals are strong and the state’s economy is in a very good position as we head toward 2018.”

These market fundamentals include low unemployment, higher wage growth and stronger global demand.

“The labor market in South Carolina is more favorable to workers than at any time in the last eight years,” he said. “With the unemployment rate currently at 3.9 percent – the lowest level since the year 2000 – employers are having to provide stronger incentives, such as higher wages, to attract and retain the workers they need.”

Manufacturing and professional and business services sectors continued to be major drivers of South Carolina’s employment growth in 2017, which is good news for a manufacturing-heavy economy such as The T&D Region’s.

Von Nessen expects the size of the labor force to continue to grow in 2018 as job opportunities continue to increase, which implies that a minor decrease in the unemployment rate should be expected over the next year.

Specifically, the Moore School forecast indicates the unemployment rate over the next 12 months will drop slightly and total personal income is expected to grow.

Despite the positive outlook for 2018, Von Nessen said addressing workforce challenges in South Carolina will be vital.

“Labor availability will be the bottleneck of economic growth in 2018,” Von Nessen said.

Reality is that today’s manufacturers and businesses cannot find enough people with the skills to fill their jobs. Thus the emphasis on educating and training people is more vital than ever – and particularly so in an area such as The T&D Region looking to show prospects there is a workforce ready to meet their needs.

With bridging the skills gap, attracting development and creating new jobs high on the agenda here, The T&D Region welcomes the opportunity to put more people to work in 2018 and beyond.

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