As state unemployment rate improves, Orangeburg County grapples with rising numbers

As state unemployment rate improves, Orangeburg County grapples with rising numbers

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The latest numbers from the state show unemployment in Orangeburg County is rising, bucking the state’s trend. 

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce published its May 2020 report, showing Orangeburg County’s unemployment rising from 13.3 percent in April, to 14.5 percent.

It states that 5,345 residents are unemployed, as compared to 4,667 the previous month.

Orangeburg County has the sixth-highest unemployment rate among counties in the state.

Meanwhile, the state went from 12.8 percent unemployment in April to 12.5 percent in May.

The state estimates 45,105 more people are working as compared to April.

In previous WIS reporting, economic leaders in Orangeburg County said the re-opening of retail would likely not affect the manufacturing-heavy employment of the county.

With the unemployment rising, OCAB Community Action Agency, Inc. Executive Director Calvin Wright said more people are seeking out his organization for help.

The Orangeburg-based non-profit provides financial support and helps with a variety of community challenges.

"Some of them are going to need help with their utility bills, they're also going to need help with mortgages, with rent, with food, with basic necessities, that they've been taking care of all of these years, and through no fault of their own, they're now without those services," Wright said.

"We have to stand in and fill that gap."

He said the pandemic has exposed problems in the community that was there before the virus came.

“If we don’t do something about it now, they’ll be there when the next pandemic comes through. We need to work on systemic problems in the area, such as poverty, health, education, unemployment,” he said.

State Department of Education Records do show Orangeburg elementary students struggling.

However, Orangeburg is not without some good news.

On June 25, business-oriented hotel SpringHill Suites opened, with a full staff of 20 workers.

Owner Raj Patel said the hotel will be reliant on customers coming down nearby roads until the economy picks back up.

"Even in the pandemic it's still a thriving market, it's connected to interstate I-26 and proximity to I-95," he said.

He said his hotel is ready to host more business clientele once the economy picks back up.

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