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SC unemployment rate continues steady drop, return of work search requirement looms

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 11:24 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina’s unemployment rate continued a steady drop last month, but officials say many jobs remain unfilled across the state.

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.1% in March, according to a new report from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

That’s down just over 3,000 people compared to February.

The rate is also down half a percent compared to December 2020.

Yet, officials with the DEW say many jobs across the state have not been filled as the calendar turns toward the spring and summer months.

“Over the past few months, we have moved our focus to filling the open and posted jobs in the state,” DEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey said in a statement. “At this point in time, there are 85,000 jobs posted by employers in the state of South Carolina. Meanwhile, we have approximately 116,000 people receiving unemployment benefits each week. That really does not make sense, and we have to get people to start looking for jobs.”

The latest jobs report also comes ahead of a key deadline for those receiving unemployment benefits in South Carolina.

Beginning April 18, the DEW will reinstate a requirement for claimants to submit two work searches per week to remain eligible for benefits.

Claimants will have to either complete two work searches via the SC Works Online Services account or the SCWOS app or certify their claims on the DEW’s app in the MyBenefits portal.

Ellzey explained that the technical requirements are the same and can both be accessed via a computer or smartphone apps.

“We have made it clear to claimants, that if they do not perform the two work searches for a claim week, they will not be paid unemployment benefits,” he said. “It is as simple as that. We believe this positive step forward will bring employers and job seekers together.”

Some Grand Strand businesses said they’ve been severely understaffed and they just don’t see how a job search requirement will fix it.

Sharon Treffeisen, owner of Hot Tomato in Myrtle Beach, says it’s been extremely difficult for the business to staff enough workers to meet customer demands.

“We pay competitive wages for our hourly employees here but we’re not getting the opportunity for them to come in and interview because we can’t compete with how much money they can get paid to stay at home, depending on their skill level,” she said.

Treffeisen questions how the DEW’s job search requirement will truly fix their under-staffing issues.

“Unless there’s some find of follow up from the department of workforce, it’s not going to do anything,” she said. “It’s just going to increase the amount of people that are coming in for the interviews.”

Employees at Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill are having a similar experience.

Server Aspen Boyd says employees are feeling the staffing pains and they’re a bit doubtful a job search requirement will help provide customers the best experience they want to provide them.

“There needs to be stricter rules on unemployment,” said Boyd. “People who need it should receive it of course. But just a simple click of button right to show you’re trying to find a job, I don’t think that cuts it.”

WMBF News also spoke with a spokesperson for the DEW, who said people collecting unemployment and are having to do the two job search per week are not legally required to apply or interview for the job:

“Per state regulation, claimants are only responsible for completing two work searches in SCWOS (SC Works Online Services) portal, but they are not required by law to apply or interview for a job. The work search requirement was waived for more than a year, but with the unemployment rate going down, more people going back to work and more jobs being available, it is time to bring the work search requirement back into effect. We know finding the right fit with a new job takes time, but we are confident that this positive habit of searching for work each week will give claimants an informed pulse on who’s hiring in their community.” -Heather Biance, Spokesperson, DEW

Staff at Hot Tomato say they’re seeking to hire people for numerous roles which include servers, hosts and kitchen positions.

Dirty Don’s is hiring for three locations. Those positions include servers and kitchen roles.

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