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A sign is posted on the door of a Florence salon telling customers it is closed due to the coronavirus.

FLORENCE, S.C. — Nearly 9% of the Pee Dee's workforce have filed initial unemployment claims since the COVID-19 shutdowns were implemented. 

A total of 12,425 people from the six-county Pee Dee region have filed claims since March 15, according to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. The number of people filing initial claims includes 4,799 people who filed between April 5 and April 11, 3,826 people who filed between March 29 and April 4, 2,751 people who filed claims between March 22 and March 28 and 1,049 people who filed claims between March 15 and March 21. 

Assuming that the Pee Dee region had steady growth in its labor force consistent with the growth from 2019 to 2020 until mid-March 2020, the Pee Dee would have a workforce of 142,386. 

Combined with 5,288 people who filed for initial benefits in February, the Pee Dee would have a 12.4% unemployment rate, assuming all claims were approved. This is an increase of 235.15% over the February unemployment rate of 3.7%.

The number of initial claims filed does not reflect those people receiving ongoing benefits from the Department of Employment and Workforce. Workers who are furloughed but still get some kind of payment or benefit from their employer will be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to an executive order signed last week by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

In Florence County, 2,168 people filed initial claims for the week ending April 11. This is an increase over the 1,685 people who filed initial claims for the week ending April 4, the 1,257 people who filed during the week ending March 28, and the 553 people who filed initial claims during the week ending March 21. Combined with the 2,054 people who filed initial claims in February, 7,717 people have filed initial unemployment claims since the beginning of February. If all of these claims are approved by the department, Florence County would have an unemployment rate of 11.5%. In February, Florence County had an unemployment rate of 3.06%. This would represent a 275.61% increase to the county's unemployment rate. 

Florence County has had 87 positive tests for COVID-19, according to data reported Wednesday by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

In Darlington County, an additional 1,084 people filed initial claims during the week ending April 11. They join 1,685 people who have filed for initial unemployment benefits since the shutdowns began: 849 people during the week of March 29-April 4, 646 people during the week of March 22-28 and 190 people for March 15-21. Combined with the 1,040 people who filed for unemployment benefits in February, 2,725 people have claimed unemployment in Darlington County since February. Darlington would have an unemployment rate of 12.99% as compared to 3.54% for the month of February. This would represent a 266.78% increase to the county's unemployment rate. 

Darlington County has had 44 positive tests for COVID-19 tests, according to data from Wednesday afternoon. 

Marion County would, if all of the claims filed by county residents are approved, have a 14.45% unemployment rate, an increase of 204.41%, which includes 587 people filing initial claims in February, 125 people during the week ending March 21, 262 people during the week ending March 28, 356 people during the week ending April 4 and 453 people during the week ending April 11. In February, Marion County had an unemployment rate of 4.75%. 

Marion County has had eight positive cases of COVID-19. 

In Williamsburg County, 341 more initial claims for unemployment were filed during the week ending April 11. Combined with the 317 people filing initial claims during the week ending April 4, 259 people filing during the week ending March 28, 67 people filing during the week ending March 21 and 596 people filing in February, and assuming all of these claims are approved, Williamsburg County would now have an employment rate of 13.04%. In February, Williamsburg County had an an unemployment rate of 4.91%. This would represent a 165.45% increase in the county's unemployment rate. 

Williamsburg County has had 18 positive cases of COVID-19. 

In Dillon County, 371 more initial claims were filed during the week ending April 11. Combined with the 237 people filing initial claims during the week ending April 4, 132 during the week ending March 28, 64 during the week ending March 21 and 576 people who filed claims in February, Dillon County would have an unemployment rate of 10.84%. In February, Dillon County had an unemployment rate of 4.52%. This would represent a 139.76% increase in the county's unemployment rate.

Dillon County has had seven positive cases of COVID-19.  

If all claims were approved by the department, Marlboro County would have an unemployment rate of 15.65%, an increase of 231.99%, including 382 people filing for initial benefits during the week ending April 11, another 382 during the week ending April 4, 195 during the week ending March 28, 50 during the week ending March 21 and 435 people who filed in February. In February, Marlboro County had an unemployment rate of 4.71%. 

Marlboro County has had 15 positive cases of COVID-19. 

The increases in the Pee Dee unemployment rate are less than the state average. Since March 15, 268,614 people have filed unemployment claims in the state. That includes more than 87,686 people filing during the week ending April 11, 85,000 people who filed for unemployment for the one week ending April 4, a 31% increase from the week before. If all of these claims are approved, this would raise the state’s unemployment rate from 2.45% to 11.23%, an increase of 458.06%.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control indicates that 3,656 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. 

Horry County, adjacent to the Pee Dee, has seen an unemployment rate increase of 527.77% since March 15, assuming that all of the claims are approved. From April 5 to April 11, 7,930 people filed for initial unemployment benefits during the week ending April 11. From March 29 to April 4, 10,098 people filed for initial unemployment benefits in Horry County on top of 9,672 people filing during March 22-28, and 5,258 people during March 15-21. If all of these claims were approved, Horry’s unemployment rate would increase from 4.23% to 26.57%.

Other hard-hit counties include Greenville (10,378 people last week), Spartanburg (7,258), Charleston (6,877), Richland (5,950), Berkeley (4,102) and Lexington County (4,080). 

The Department of Employment and Workforce said it has had to quadruple the number of call center workers needed to process claims, and it has paid more than $114 million during the past week.

Nationally, 5.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, meaning that since the shutdowns began, 22 million people say they have lost jobs as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Worldometers.info indicates that 644,823 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States.

Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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