Just more than a week before the Nov. 3 election, polls in key states show Democrat Joe Biden with a lead over President Donald Trump. Pundits contend the coronavirus crisis will be the undoing of Trump. If so, the primary factor should not be the economic fallout from the pandemic.
While Biden continues to call the economy a disaster, even the polls showing Biden ahead do not have him leading Trump on the issue of the economy. That begs the question: With so many elections in the past having been decided on economic issues, why is Trump not putting more focus there?
The president can rightly point to the pandemic as the overwhelming reason that unemployment is not a record lows. And he can make a sound case that the economy is rebounding now despite continuing slowdowns and shutdowns in some states. The U.S. gained 661,000 jobs in September and the national unemployment rate fell to 7.9% -- compared to the nearly historic high of 14.7% at the peak of the coronavirus shutdown.
Trump is not expected to need a lot of added support to win in historically “red” South Carolina, but he could point to the state as an example of economic progress.
In September, the jobless rate fell from August’s 6.4% to 5.1%. Compare that to where the state stood amid the coronavirus shutdown in May, when unemployment was at a six-year high of 12.4%.
While joblessness remains an issue in some sectors of the economy, the news this past week from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce is that people are needed to fill jobs.
“... What our agency is hearing from the business community is the urgent need for workers. While we know a lot of businesses suffered layoffs during the pandemic, industries have ramped back up and several are experiencing a boom,” Executive Director Dan Ellzey said.
“People who are looking for employment are finding work. And now is the time to secure one of these in-demand jobs because South Carolina needs people in the workforce. If individuals have stopped looking for work because they believe businesses are closed or not hiring, let me assure you that is not the case. We are working with employers all over the state who need employees now more than ever.”
He urged anyone without work to go to www.jobs.scworks.org, where they can search through thousands of jobs, or visit www.scworks.org to find an SC Works center near them to explore the resources available locally.
It’s not only industry with jobs available. The National Federation of Independent Business Optimism Index for September shows that small businesses are facing the same problem with finding labor, which was an issue before the pandemic recession. Twenty-one percent of owners cited “finding qualified labor” as their top business problem.
But optimism is there. The NFIB index rose 3.8 points to 104.0 in September, a historically high reading. Nine of the 10 index components improved and one declined. The NFIB Uncertainty Index increased 2 points to 92, up from 75 in April.
While state-specific data aren’t available for the index, NFIB S.C. Director Ben Homeyer said, “Business is better than it was a few months ago, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner on this.”
With South Carolina leaders determined not to see the economy tank amid the continued battle with the coronavirus, the economic story in this state and others is one that the nation’s present leadership should be trumpeting.
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