Despite the addition of two million jobs and continuing economic growth on a national level, income for the typical American household failed to rise and poverty levels remained consistent in 2012.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is no higher than it was in the late 1990’s. Today’s rate is $51,017, down about 9 percent from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999. This is mainly contributed to the longest and most damaging recession since the Depression.

The situation in South Carolina is dismal. Data from the 2012 American Community Surveyestimates the median household income (inflation-adjusted value) is $43,107 for the state, 15% lower than the national average of $51,017. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 8.1%, 7.3% nationally, and the US Census reports 17% of South Carolina’s population live below the poverty level, compared to 14.3% nationally.

How can we, collectively as a state, address these critical issues? We can begin by recognizing that the hardest hit segment of the population are the working poor and middle class, who generally make less than they had before the recession, are impacted by high levels of unemployment, and are hindered by non-existent wage growth.

We need to continue to create jobs and spur economic development. Many initiatives are currently underway to identify and prepare entrepreneurs for successful ventures. The Harbor AcceleratorLowcountry Local First, and even CLF’s Feeding Innovation program, engage entrepreneurs addressing critical issues facing our communities.

Employers in South Carolina must offer competitive compensation. Area Development’s fourth annual Top States for Doing Business in 2013 ranks South Carolina second, and is at the top of the list for business environment and labor climate. Regardless of these accolades, the state’s average annual salary is $33,884, ranking South Carolina 45th nationally. Several groups, including the Charleston Regional Development AllianceCentral SC, and Upstate SC Alliance, are working to build a stronger workforce, increase the number of higher-wage jobs, and create long-term economic success.

By providing employment and economic development opportunities, we will collectively help to reduce unemployment and poverty rates, and will help South Carolina meet and surpass national levels, making it the ideal place to work and live.

For more information on CLF’s loan programs or the Feeding Innovation program, please contact Anna Hamilton at anna@sccommunityloanfund.org.