Employment & Economy in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties
South Carolina is now the second-most-popular destination for movers in the United States, with Charleston adding 34 newcomers every day. Economists predict this may be due in part to a larger trend of people seeking locations where housing costs are relatively lower (statewide, 25 percent below the national average), climates are more temperate and job growth has been at or above national averages. Much of this job growth can be attributed to the Charleston Aviation Complex (which includes Boeing South Carolina, the Charleston County Aviation Authority, the Charleston International Airport terminals and Joint Base Charleston). The complex contributes billions to the region’s economy and supports thousands of local jobs. And Boeing’s latest additions to its operations continue to dramatically expand and diversify the region’s aerospace sector. Aerospace manufacturing (led by Boeing) is slated to create the most jobs for the Charleston region, with physicians, restaurants and computer systems design not far behind.
The Charleston region’s population is growing three times faster than the U.S. average, to more than 744,000. A steady stream of well-educated young talent who come for jobs — or create their own in the business-friendly community — are helping to boost that number.
The median age in Charleston County is 35.8 years old, 36.9 in Berkeley County and 35.5 in Dorchester County, meaning the workforce skews younger. The workforce is expected to get even younger as millennials are flocking to the area in droves. Median household income in Charleston County is $57,882, $56,697 in Berkeley County and $58,685 in Dorchester County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
By Land and Sea
South Carolina’s first transportation revolution was the development of a network of canals and waterways. From the 1790s to the 1830s, the Palmetto State was a pre-eminent leader in infrastructure improvements and developed an extensive system of more than 2,000 miles of canals and waterways connecting virtually every part of the state with the coast and the Port of Charleston. The geography of South Carolina dictated the development of its canals and river navigation schemes, but it was cotton, the state’s all-important cash crop, that necessitated this mode of transportation. The goal was to transport cotton from plantations across the state to the port of Charleston for shipment. From the first settlement in South Carolina, economic success was in fact dependent on waterways. But in the 1830s, the canal boom ended when another transportation innovation, the railroad, superseded waterway travel as the primary link to the ports.
Railroads played a significant role in the Charleston area during the Civil War with troop movement, but their greatest use was for transporting goods and material to aid in the war effort. Many miles of track were destroyed by Gen. William T. Sherman on his march through South Carolina, but many miles were also torn up by locals to be used on more important lines across the state and the Confederacy. After the war, South Carolinians made quick repairs and by 1870 had added another 300 miles of new track.
The Port of Charleston suffered in the wake of the Civil War. The harbor itself was in shambles and filled with mines and the wrecks of sunken Confederate and Union ships. The Southern economy had little to export, and Charleston’s network of private waterfronts was neglected and left to ruin. The establishment of several major federal military bases during the early 20th century benefited Charleston Harbor tremendously. Because of this federal presence, the harbor itself was well-maintained and greatly improved over the years. Today, the Port of Charleston is one of the largest ports in the United States, boasts the deepest water in the southeast region and regularly handles ships too big to transit through the Panama Canal.
The latest shot in the arm to Charleston’s economy comes from Volvo Cars of America, which broke ground on its first American manufacturing plant in Berkeley County in September 2016. The factory will eventually be capable of producing 150,000 cars per year and started rolling sedans off the assembly line in 2018. Officials estimate the creation of 2,000 direct jobs with over 8,000 total jobs in the area as a result.
Charleston’s earliest history is tied to its prominence as a center of trade. From the founding of the colony until the days of the Civil War, the colony’s principal exports were lumber and naval stores, furs and animal skins, rice, indigo, cotton and tobacco — all abundant in an economy based on plantations and slave labor. Exports of rice and indigo crops led South Carolina to become one of the wealthiest colonies prior to the American Revolution. Near the beginning of the 18th century, planters began rice culture along the coast, mainly in the Georgetown and Charleston areas. The rice became known as Carolina Gold, both for its color and its ability to produce great fortunes for plantation owners. In the 19th century, the invention of the cotton gin enabled profitable processing of short-staple cotton, which grew better in the area than long-staple cotton. The Civil War ruined the economy, and continued dependence on agriculture made South Carolina one of the poorest states for the next century.
In the 1950s, as factories were built across the state, the great majority of farmers left agriculture. The rapid decline of agriculture in the state has been one of the most important developments since the 1960s. As late as 1960, more than half the state’s cotton was picked by hand. Over the next 20 years, mechanization eliminated tens of thousands of jobs in rural counties. Cotton was no longer king, as cotton lands were converted into timberlands.
Service industries, such as tourism, education and medical care, grew rapidly, as the textile factories faded after 1970 with movement of jobs offshore.
Today, Charleston enjoys a diverse economy. An abundant and well-educated workforce is employed in thriving chemical, automotive, telecommunications, healthcare and professional services sectors. Retail trade and tourism are also thriving economic sectors.
Military Impact on South Carolina
Joint Base Charleston has a total economic impact of $8.7 billion each year according to a 2017 economic impact study by the South Carolina Military Base Task Force and the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. The base is associated with approximately 50,000 jobs and $3.6 billion in labor income.
At the national level, websites such as www.linkedin.com, www.monster.com, www.careerbuilder.com and www.indeed.com have extensive search capabilities as well as resume tips, forum support and professional networking options.
The National Military Spouse Network, a networking, mentoring and professional development organization, has a wealth of career information at its website, www.nationalmilitaryspousenetwork.org. The group aims to help military spouses build a meaningful, sustained career path and offers a library of articles that touch on topics like entrepreneurship, resume tips, self-promotion and more as well as a membership-only discussion forum. The organization also features companies that are military spouse-owned or military spouse-friendly on its Homefront Business Listings page.
South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is responsible for paying unemployment insurance benefits, collecting unemployment taxes, helping people find jobs, matching businesses with qualified candidates, and collecting and disseminating state/federal employment statistics. DEW has one of the most comprehensive databases for job seekers. Here you can search jobs, set up a profile, post a resume and find training opportunities.
State of South Carolina
Employment opportunities with the state of South Carolina are posted online. Find open state government jobs and agencies that aid workforce development.
1003 Highway 52
Moncks Corner, SC 29461 843-719-4163
Berkeley County is among the top employers in the Charleston MSA. Jobs are posted online with salary included if applicable, and applications are available for online submission only with an Applicant Online account.
4045 Bridge View Drive
North Charleston, SC 29405 843-958-4700
Jobs are posted online for Charleston County and public library jobs, along with benefit information. Applications can be submitted online or in person.
201 Johnston St.
St. George, SC 29477 843-563-0141/832-0141
Jobs are posted online and include salary and benefit information. Applications can be submitted online or in person. Promotional opportunities for current county employees are posted online as well. For questions, call the Human Resources Department at 843-832-0141 or 843-563-0141.
City of Charleston
80 Broad St.
Charleston, SC 29401 843-724-7388
View current job opportunities and the application procedures online. Call Human Resources at 843-724-7388 with any questions.
City of Goose Creek
519 N. Goose Creek Blvd.
Goose Creek, SC 29445 843-797-6220
Click “Employment” to view job openings and apply for an open position.
City of North Charleston
2500 City Hall Lane
North Charleston, SC 29406 843-554-5700
From the menu on the city’s website, choose “Job Vacancies” to access North Charleston’s city job vacancies and the city’s online application.
Town of Moncks Corner
118 Carolina Ave.
Moncks Corner, SC 29461 843-719-7900
From the town’s website, see available employment opportunities and download the employment application to submit at the address above or mail to the P.O. box listed on the application.
Town of Mount Pleasant
100 Ann Edwards Lane
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 843-884-8517
From the home page, click “Apply for a Job” to access job openings, see Mount Pleasant’s employee benefits, download an application, apply online or create a job alert.
Town of Summerville
100 W. Richardson Ave., Suite E
Summerville, SC 29483 843-851-4222
From the main menu on the town’s website, click “Human Resources” from the Departments tab to see Employment Opportunities. Applications must be submitted in person or by mail.
An employment agency can offer posts ranging from high-level administration to warehouse work. Many employers use agencies as their human resources department. Agencies advertise, interview, test and manage payroll. A temp-to-perm arrangement allows the employer and prospective employee to evaluate each other before committing to permanent employment.
Municipal and regional chambers of commerce include local employment agencies in their member lists, along with contact information. See Page 22 for a list of chambers of commerce in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.
Always keep your resume up-to-date and have several versions that target specific industries and highlight your skills that fit their job descriptions.
Compile several reference lists with a good variety of people and former business associates. Be sure to first ask each if you can use them as references.
Compose a comprehensive, catchy and succinct cover letter of no more than a page (this is no place to ramble). It will introduce you and your desire to work for the company. Have a knowledgeable friend check it for errors; misspelled words and bad grammar hint at carelessness and indifference. Know what the company does, and highlight skills, work experience and education that apply to the position.
Maintain a positive, professional and broad-based presence on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn; almost all employers search social media sites to vet job candidates, and your absence there will raise red flags. Also be aware that images and comments posted spur-of-the-moment can be searched out forever and come back to haunt you.
Be prepared for an interview at any time. When you submit your application, a supervisor may want to talk immediately, or the phone may ring with a call from a hiring director. Compose — and rehearse — your one-minute self-promotional speech on who you are, an achievement or two and your strengths. It’s not vanity to make a good first impression. If a supervisor wants to know why she should hire you, be ready.
Always follow up with thank-you letters and calls. Even today, a letter, as well as the quick-response email, will separate you from a surprising number of the other applicants — to your advantage — and keep your name fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Judicious calls display your continued interest. Writing out beforehand what you want to say helps. So does rehearsal.
Be aware that due to the usually huge numbers of applicants, most companies are able to follow up only with candidates in whom they are interested. Don’t take it personally if you are not notified that you did not get the job.
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON CIVILIAN OPPORTUNITIES
Visit www.usajobs.gov to search for Department of Defense jobs at Joint Base Charleston by searching “Charleston” or “Goose Creek.” Or call Joint Base Charleston’s Human Resources Office at 843-794-7065.
For information about service jobs, including openings in lodging, marina, recreation areas and more (non-appropriated fund positions), call Joint Base Charleston’s NAF hotline at 843-794-7068.
For Base Exchange jobs, visit the AAFES career page at http://odin.aafes.com/employment and search for Charleston.
Search for jobs at Charleston’s Main Navy Exchange and Navy Lodge at www.mynavyexchange.com/nex/work-for-us and search for Charleston or Goose Creek.
South Carolina Small Business Development Center
The South Carolina Small Business Development Center offers small business resources and workshops for those looking to start a business. Visit www.scsbdc.com to get started. Or visit the South Carolina Small Business Development Center’s location in North Charleston at 6296 Rivers Ave., Suite 300. Call 843-740-6160 for more information.
Small Business Resources
Learn the steps to start and grow a small business at USA.gov’s Small Business website. The platform features hand-picked government websites helpful to small business owners. Learn about business taxes and incentives, financing a business, importing and exporting, federal government contracting, state business resources and more. The website also provides information on a wide range of programs and services to help veterans, women, minorities and the economically disadvantaged start or grow a business.