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South Dakota unemployment reaches 1.8 percent

Governor Kristi Noem welds in her recent Freedom Works Here ad.
Governor Kristi Noem
Governor Kristi Noem welds in her recent Freedom Works Here ad.

Gov. Kristi Noem is celebrating the state’s unemployment rate, which sits below two percent.

Noem said South Dakota has officially broken the record for lowest unemployment rate in U.S. history.

“South Dakotans are the hardest working folks I know, and this record low unemployment rate is proof of that,” said Noem, in a press release. “South Dakota is setting an example for the rest of the nation. We are showing that work ethic and traditional American values still have a place in the United States of America.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Dakota and New Hampshire share an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent.

For weeks, Noem has touted the state’s low unemployment rate. But low jobless numbers present a different challenge for the state.

“There’s good and bad to the unemployment rate that low," said Ernie Goss, a professor of economics at Creighton University in Nebraska.

“The good, of course, is that most workers who want a job can find a job quite readily. The bad part, of course, is that companies have a difficult time finding and hiring those qualified workers," Goss added. "So, it restrains business growth in the state.”

Goss said a low unemployment rate indicates to businesses that workforce availability will be an issue.

“One of the difficulties in recruiting companies to come to South Dakota is can you get the employees that you would like to either bring to the state or do they already exist there? The low unemployment rate indicates they are not there right now—at least in plentiful," Goss said.

That’s not unique to South Dakota. Goss said surrounding states are dealing with the same thing.

According to the state Department of Labor, South Dakota has more than 24,000 job openings. Noem said her television campaign to attract workers to the state, “Freedom Works Here,” has led to 3,000 applications for jobs.

Economist Goss says the state could stand to benefit from an update to federal immigration law to bring more workers to the country.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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