FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry's timing was good for delivering a jobs message to South Carolina's Republican primary voters.
As the GOP presidential candidate headed to an event at a Florence hospital Friday, the state released a jobs report that showed South Carolina's ailing job picture had gotten worse: 10.9 percent unemployment in July, up from 10.4 percent a month earlier. That's one of the highest state unemployment rates in the nation and the worst for an early primary state.
Perry talked about the prescription he's been offering everywhere: cutting taxes, regulations and lawsuits while holding out Texas as a state that has been effective at creating jobs.
"Because we're all about smaller government; we're all about making government work. We're all about cutting taxes, cutting regulations and cutting litigation," Perry said. "If you want to live in a state and in a country that doesn't allow for oversuing, then I'm your guy."
It's the pitch he's made from Iowa to New Hampshire and to a family restaurant in Florence earlier Friday morning, where he criticized President Barack Obama's jobs record.
"This is the president of the United States that has killed more jobs in America than I think any president...," Perry said. "I think the only job he cares about is the one he's got."
Fixing the high unemployment rate in South Carolina has eluded the state's Republican leadership. No other early primary state has ranked as consistently at the top of the unemployment charts as South Carolina.
And Perry knows he has to tread carefully on the topic as he stakes his campaign on his job creation record and the promise to bring that to the rest of the nation.
"I'm not going to walk into any state and saying, 'We're from Texas and we did it right and you did it wrong,'" Perry said.
Socially conservative Republicans here concede that family values, same-sex marriage and abortion are taking a backseat to fixing the economy and creating jobs.
South Carolina has shifted from persistently having one of the nation's lowest jobless rates to among the nation' highest since 2002 when Republicans gained control of the Statehouse and Governor's Mansion for the first time.
Florence County GOP chairman Bill Pickle said there's blame enough to go around for Democrats and Republicans.
"Both sides have made some crucial mistakes," he said.
GOP presidential hopefuls got a break from unions and then the National Labor Relations Board. While South Carolina has one of the nation's lowest unionized workforce rates, organized labor has become a top issue here.
As Republican Gov. Nikki Haley took office in January, she appointed an anti-union lawyer to run the state labor department, saying she'd help fight unions at Boeing Co.'s new North Charleston plant.
A union representing Boeing's machinist workers sued over the remarks. She won that fight earlier this month, but the NLRB has also challenged Boeing's decision to locate operations South Carolina, claiming it was an effort to retaliate against union workers in Washington state.
Associated Press reporter Paul Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.