Local situation

A look at the Charleston area’s jobless rates, by county:

Charleston

August: 6.6%

July: 6.4%

Aug. 2012: 7.7%

Berkeley

August: 7.4%

July: 7%

Aug. 2012: 8.1%

Dorchester

August: 7%

July: 6.8%

Aug. 2012: 7.4%

Source: S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce

South Carolina’s jobless rate didn’t go up in August. But it didn’t go down, either.

The unemployment rate was unchanged last month from July’s 8.1 percent figure, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce reported Friday.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent in July.

South Carolina’s jobless rate has shown little movement since April.

The stagnant employment growth is tied partly reluctance among companies to invest in more workers — typically their biggest cost — ahead of the start of the Oct. 1 federal health care reforms and amid calls to raise the minimum wage, said Russell Sobel, visiting scholar in The Citadel’s School of Business Administration.

“There’s a lot uncertainty with policy in the U.S. and that policy uncertainty is creating an environment where the job creators are not creating jobs at the rate like they were coming out of past recessions,” Sobel said. “That is nationally, not just specific to South Carolina.”

The Charleston region had a 6.9 percent unemployment rate for August, which was the lowest among the state’s four major urban job centers.

The local figure edged up 0.2 percentage point from July, but still nearly a point lower than August 2012, according to data. College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said last month’s uptick was likely “statistical sampling error might be a better explanation than something more fundamental.”

“No one has predicted that the economy would start roaring, but we are still sluggishly plugging along,” he said.

Hefner added that September could show stronger employment numbers because teachers and other support staff are back in school.

The number of unemployed workers statewide totaled 175,602 in August, an increase of 1,165. The number of employed fell 1,526 over the month.

The biggest gains in August were concentrated in professional and business services, and manufacturing, which together added 1,900 jobs. The government sector added 900 positions.

One of the largest job losses for August was in leisure and hospitality, which shed 700 workers as the summer vacation season came to a close.

Rural Marion County in the Pee Dee region had the highest jobless level, at 15.1 percent. Lexington County in the Midlands had the lowest, at 6.5 percent.

Nationally, employers cut payrolls in 20 states last month, and the jobless rate rose in 18 states. The figure fell in 17 states and was unchanged in 15.

“The picture is decidedly mixed,” said Jim Diffley, chief U.S. regional economist at IHS Global Insight. “We’re still optimistic about the improvement (in hiring), but it’s been slow.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.