Two months after S.C. eliminates unemployment benefit boost, data shows a change - but some don’t see it

South Carolina residents have been without the federal unemployment aid boost since Governor McMaster eliminated those benefits back at the end of June.
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - A pandemic-related boost to federal unemployment benefits will end for millions of Americans on Labor Day and thousands in North Carolina residents will be impacted by the looming expiration date.

South Carolina residents have been without the federal unemployment aid boost since Governor McMaster eliminated those benefits back at the end of June, saying it was time for people to get back to work.

In late June, Governor Henry McMaster instructed the Department of Employment and Workforce to return to pre-pandemic unemployment benefits. It was an effort to get people back to work.

At the height of the pandemic, South Carolina’s unemployment rate was nearly 12 percent. It has been steadily decreasing since benefits ended going from 4.5 in June to 4.3 in July.

That is getting closer to the pre-pandemic levels of unemployment which were just above 3 percent. An estimated 10,000 people started working in July as well.

Experts say looking at the hospitality industry, like hotels and restaurants, is a good indication if jobs are bouncing back. The Department of Employment and Workforce says nearly half of the jobs added between June and July were in the hospitality industry.

Marquis Hall-Miller, a manager at the Flipside Restaurant in Rock Hill, gave this answer when asked what it has been like at that restaurant.

”Although we’re a little understaffed we genuinely don’t have too much of a staffing issue here,” says Hall-Miller. And it’s a little better now definitely that more people are looking for work as well.”

Hall-Miller says they have it worked out at the restaurant to have enough waitstaff to keep going, but he says it has been tough. The hustle and bustle of a busy Flipside dining room is nothing new. More people getting out means more people coming in.

”More people are wanting to get out,” says Hall-Miller. “They have cabin fever so they are just wanting to get away.”

Hall-Miller says business is booming.

”Bottom line is all restaurants need money,” he says. “It takes people in the seats to get the paychecks out and it takes people in the seats for waiters to get tips.”

While there is no shortage of those people, there is one for the waitstaff taking care of them.

”We’re already pulling from a small pool of people so it’s kind of rough, it is,” he says.

Back in June, Governor Henry McMaster rolled back federal unemployment benefits saying too many people were relying on unemployment checks rather than looking for work. He thought a rollback would help.

”We’re hearing from businesses around the state that things are getting better but we still have a ways to go,” says McMaster.

The data shows something positive. Last year around this time unemployment was 11 percent. Last month, it was down to 4.3 percent, but the help wanted signs around the area and Hall-Miller’s experience tells a different story.

”It’s not necessarily that the unemployment benefits are keeping people out of work. I just feel like the restaurant industry people went to other industries,” says Hall-Miller.

The applicants he says he is getting do not have as much restaurant experience as before, but Hall-Miller says that’s not stopping Flipside from trying to be the best restaurant in town.

”It is what it is. We do the best we can with who we have and we’ll train them to the best of our ability,” he says.

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