Unemployment Up, Volunteerism May Help

Officials encourage jobseekers to work for free to perhaps get a job

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By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's unemployment rate has gone up for the first time in months. However, officials with the State Department of Employment and Workforce encourage volunteerism as a possible way to find gainful employment.

The Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday that the state's jobless rate was 8.4 percent in December, compared to 8.3 percent in November.

Before December, South Carolina unemployment had dropped for four straight months. In November, state officials said the monthly mark of 8.3 percent was South Carolina's lowest unemployment rate since October 2008.

Employment and Workforce executive director Abraham Turner said the increase was attributed in part to a seasonal drop of nearly 6,000 jobs in South Carolina's leisure and hospitality industry. Government jobs also dropped by 2,300.

Unemployment went up in all but three of South Carolina's 46 counties in December. Nationally, unemployment last month was 7.8 percent.

Kimberlyn Hicks knows better than anyone the benefit to volunteering. While out of work, she worked for free with the Auntie Karen Foundation and learned basic computer, public relations and organizational skills. Founder and CEO of the Foundation, Karen Alexander, says she has experience with several people volunteering and then ending up with gainful employment.

"Any work, whether you get paid or not, is not meaningless," said Alexander.

Known for its annual 'Legends of...' Concert series, the Foundation allowed Kimberlyn Hicks to broaden her horizons and gain skills she would not otherwise have been exposed to. Hicks now works four days a week, has mornings and evenings off and has taken her first paid vacation in more than five years.

For more information on events and programs via the Auntie Karen Foundation, go to www.auntiekaren.org, or call 803-748-7124. For more information on employment in South Carolina, contact the Department of Employment and Workforce at www.dew.sc.org or call 803-737-2623.

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