SC jobs agency chief to retire next year

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The leader of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce who shepherded the state jobs agency through the COVID-19 crisis is set to retire from the cabinet post next year.

Dan Ellzey has overseen the department as executive director since April 2019. He plans to step down at the end of February, Gov. Henry McMaster’s office announced Dec. 8.

“Director Ellzey has been a crucial part of the team that helped South Carolina successfully navigate the unprecedented economic challenges caused by the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side,” McMaster said.

The governor will name a successor to fill the cabinet position later.

Ellzey, who is 75, was an employment and labor attorney at a law firm in Columbia when he was appointed to run DEW, which among other duties oversees the unemployment benefits system.

At the time, the statewide jobless rate had sunk to a record low of 2.4 percent, triggering widespread labor shortages.

But within a year, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the hospitality industry and other major segments of the economy in 2020, causing the jobless figure to spike to a peak of 12.8 percent.

Unemployment has since gradually retreated, coming in at 3.3 percent last month, though the worker shortage that preceded the health crisis persists.

“I will retire … with a deep appreciation and knowledge of the important role public servants play in strengthening our labor force,” Ellzey said in a prepared statement, adding that “the number of employed individuals is higher than it was pre-pandemic and our state is making great strides.”

He’s leaving the agency as South Carolina continues to struggle to increase its labor participation rate, which has lagged the national average of 62 percent for years.

Ellzey set up a task force in March to find out why some residents who are able to work choose not to and to develop solutions to close the gap. The findings are scheduled to be released later this month.

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