How spring could bring S.C. an economic thaw

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- For pawn shop operator Donovan Tenney, the economic cycle is written in saws.

For more than two years, Tenney has had shelves of them - miter saws, circular saws, jigsaws - piled up by construction workers pawning them to pay the bills during The Great Recession.

"For awhile, we had to almost give them away to get them out the door," said Tenney of West Columbia Pawn & Jewelry.

"But now, they're selling."

Granted, the sales of miter saws at the local pawn shop are but a small indicator of an economic recovery.

But those sales are one of several precious green shoots, a hint of a spring economic thaw in this recessionary winter:

- While unemployment remains at record highs, statewide online job postings have risen 10.2 percent since last month, according to The Confidence Board.

- After three straight years of decline, S.C. home sales have shown increases over the past five months, boosted by a federal tax credit for home buyers. Sales rose 15 percent in January, compared to a year earlier.

- Building permits last month are up statewide by 35.5 percent over last year and 81 percent in the Midlands.

- And it was a good holiday season in South Carolina as retail sales in December were 4 percent higher than 2008.

Still, these green shoots are fragile and will take time to grow into a full economic recovery, analysts said.

And it will take more of the green shoots, particularly those tied to jobs. And we have been disappointed before.

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