CAROLINA FOREST, S.C. (WBTW) — It has now been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the job market, but worker wages in South Carolina have increased and local businesses are still adjusting to keep up.

Wage inflation has many workers on offense with no signs of slowing down. With more jobs open than people to fill them, “now hiring” signs are a common sight across most of South Carolina.

The state boasts close to record employment with more than 2.3 million workers who, on average, earned wages close to 14% higher than the year before.

Dillon County saw the largest year over year wage increase at almost 12%, while Marlboro County saw the lowest at 3.5%.

Erica Von Nessen, an economist for the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, said there are still plenty of jobs to fill, which will only fuel job growth, but that wages are a game of ratios.

“Even though the number of people employed is higher by about 2% compared to February of 2020, the population has grown faster than 2%,” Von Nessen told News13.

Tavern in the Forest is feeling the squeeze, and Operations Director Drew Doss said it’s a balancing act where higher wages combined with increased inflationary costs are eating into profits.

“Some positions are getting paid on average double what they were getting paid just a couple of years ago, and the consumer is only going to pay so much for a burger,” Doss said.

Grand 14 in the Market Common is run by Duane Farmer. It employs mostly teens and seniors looking for part-time work, especially in the summer. Farmer said wages have gone up since the pandemic to keep up because the $7.25 minimum wage was just not enough.

It’s a beginner job but we do pay way better than minimum wage,” Farmer said. “At least 3 or 4 dollars above minimum wage.”

South Carolina’s unemployment rate is steady at 3.2% for the month of February.

SCDEW is now focusing on the rural job market and offering nonprofits that connect job seekers and employers in all our counties except Florence $25,000.

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