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Report: South Carolina attracts, retains college-educated residents

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(The Center Square) — South Carolina both attracts and retains new college-educated residents, a new study revealed.

The findings from HireAHelper revealed that South Carolina experienced a 137% net gain, ranking it second highest in the country behind only Washington state.

“One of the main reasons that the college-educated gave for moving is to start a new job,” Miranda Marquit, consumer wellness advocate, HireAHelper, told The Center Square via email. “For South Carolina, that makes sense. A study from October 2023 showed South Carolina as the fastest-growing job market in the United States. For those looking for jobs, South Carolina shows promise, especially in the two metro areas that made the top list.”

The report seeks to measure the so-called “brain drain,” where college-educated individuals leave certain places. When they do, critics argue, they leave those places at economic risk and widen gaps in the talent market.

Conversely, locations that gain these residents see a “brain gain” and potentially benefit from the workforce increase.

“South Carolina has more job opportunities for better pay than Alabama and a lower cost of living than New York,” Marquit said. “South Carolina appears to be in a sweet spot for job seekers who want to move forward in their careers, but also want to live in an affordable area.”

“Hopefully, with more college-educated people moving to South Carolina, policymakers should focus on continuing to highlight aspects of living in South Carolina that make it attractive,” Marquit said. “Access to quality of life and a relatively low cost of living are good points.”

As William Floyd, executive director of the South Carolina Employment and Workforce, said in a release last month, “April’s employment numbers show steady growth as South Carolina continues to set employment records with the number of people working increasing to 2,404,450, and the labor force participation rate ticking up to 57.2%.”

Marquit said policymakers should also focus on items that attract people to certain areas, including services that young workers and families prefer, such as quality schools and infrastructure.

“While taxes probably contribute in some way, many of the states with the highest numbers are also those with robust job markets,” Marquit said. “Nevada, Wisconsin, Washington, certain metro areas in Florida, and South Carolina all have growing job markets. These markets are also focused on professions that require some type of degree.”

“In reality, checking in with young professionals to see what amenities and services they want is likely to do more to retain skilled and educated workers than simply lowering taxes,” Marquit said. “Finally, these areas still have a relatively low cost of living (including some taxes) as compared to places like the West Coast and New York.”

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