Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tourism, retail look better, not construction

Most officials are cautiously optimistic about the economic growth for 2011. In the Grand Strand area, this is more true than ever. The biggest issue is the job growth problem here. Even in  peak season, there are still 1 in 10 people still out of work!

Here is the article by Jake Spring.

MYRTLE BEACH — With one in 10 people out of work even in peak tourist season, a year of slow job gains has not gotten the Grand Strand far. But with a second year of slow gains likely to come, job seekers may start to notice a difference, an economist said.

“We should just continue to expect it to be slow, but positive in 2011,” said Rob Salvino, research economist at Coastal Carolina University. “If we looked back to 2009, it would look considerably better.”

Hiring will start earlier this year and be led by a more confident tourism industry, coming off a successful 2010 summer season, officials and businesspeople said.
Retail, health care and manufacturing also will see upticks in the number of workers.

But little growth is expected in the still sluggish construction sector, an industry that helped drag down the economy in the recession and will be key to a full recovery, Salvino said.

The Grand Strand job market improved slightly in 2010, which was expected, Salvino said. Horry County’s jobless rate declined by 1.5 percent from December 2009 to December 2010 and sits at 13 percent, according to statistics released last week by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. Georgetown County’s rate dropped 1.9 percent during the year to 12.2 percent in December.
The unemployment rate should improve another 1 percent by December 2011, provided state and local government doesn’t take on mass layoffs to make up for budget shortfalls, Salvino said.

Despite some gains in momentum and growing optimism, many businesses will remain cautious in their hiring in 2011, said Brad Dean, president and chief executive of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. If gas prices continue to rise or insurance costs skyrocket, growth might be affected, he said.
“While we’re emerging from the recession, it’s still a very delicate economic balance,’’ Dean said.

Hiring is starting earlier this year and seasonal employers, particularly in tourism, already are reaching out for help connecting with jobseekers, said Mary Nell Smith, area director of the Coastal Workforce Center in Conway.

“We’re still seeing our hiring run by hospitality and tourism,’’ Smith said.

Last year, most hospitality businesses waited to see sure signs of improvement before hiring, said Stephen Greene , president and chief executive of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association. Many businesses held off on hiring until well into the spring in 2010.

“The last few years it’s almost been a wait-and-see approach — we’ll hire if we have the business,” Greene said. “For 2011 the outlook is much stronger. We’re coming out of a strong year with something to build on.”

Hotel occupancy in the Myrtle Beach area was up about 8 percentage points in summer 2010 compared with the season a year before.

Few jobs will be added in construction as the real estate industry continues to struggle with excess inventory and distressed property sales, Salvino said. Strong demand will need to return before any hiring is done, and that’s not likely to come in 2011, he said.

“It shows in the magnitude of the housing crisis and how big it was here,” Salvino said. “The unwinding of that is really, really taking some time.”
Building will improve slightly in the coming year, but a recovery is just taking hold, said Harry Dill, president of the Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association. If any hiring were done it would wait until at least the second half of the year, he said.

“It’s going to pick up in 2011; I do think that it’s going to get better,” Dill said. “We are a long ways from a normal recovery.”

Although some jobs will be created this year by construction on the Myrtle Beach International Airport and roads projects such as the Aynor overpass, those won’t make up for the jobs lost in home building, Salvino said.

The recovery of retail goes hand-in-hand with tourism as consumers feel more comfortable with smaller discretionary purchases such as vacations or shopping, even if they are still shy of buying homes, Salvino said.

Health care
Hiring at area hospitals will continue to steadily improve this year, Salvino said.
Grand Strand Regional Medical Center plans to add 50 staffers in 2011 as it continues the upgrade to a level two trauma center, a process that the hospital began in November, spokeswoman Joan Carroza said.

The center also will need more support staff such as lab technicians and radiologists. Carroza said she recommends those looking for a career in medicine train for rehabilitation and pharmacy positions, which are always in high demand at the hospital, she said.

Airplane-maker Boeing Co. and the Georgetown steel mill will be the major drivers of manufacturing jobs this year, Salvino said.

Boeing plans to open in July in North Charleston, and the resulting job gains may trickle over to the Grand Strand, Salvino said. The plant is expected to have about 1,000 employees when it opens. There’s also the potential that entrepreneurs could start new companies in Horry or Georgetown counties that would provide goods or services to the factory, he said.

The 200 jobs added in January with the opening of the Georgetown steel mill could take 0.7 percent off of unemployment there in 2011, Salvino said.

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/01/1673283/tourism-retail-look-better-not.html#ixzz1CkqO5BB2

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