A new report released Tuesday shows South Dakota’s unemployment rate is better than other states around the country, but that doesn’t mean the state is thriving during this economic recession.
A report called The State of Working South Dakota 20-12 depicts the economic challenges confronting the state’s working population. Doug Hall with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. wrote the report. He says South Dakota’s unemployment hovers around four percent. While other states envy that statistic, Hall says one number doesn’t accurately reflect the state’s economic foundation.
"First of all, it hides the fact that that unemployment rate, despite being so low, is actually double what it was when the recession started," Hall says. "It also hides the fact that there’s been significant population growth in South Dakota."
Because of that growth, Hall says South Dakota has to add about 11,800 jobs to get back to the same place employment was when the recession began. He says the overall unemployment number obscures gaps due to age, education, and ethnicity.
That’s particularly obvious in the case of Native Americans living in South Dakota. Hall says data for most states show disparities along racial and ethnic lines. South Dakota doesn’t have the high populations of African Americans or Latinos that others states include.
“But it makes it a little bit too easy to ignore the fact that American Indians in South Dakota are, in fact, faring very poorly in terms of the overall economy,” Hall says “For example, if you take a look at the unemployment rate in South Dakota, whereas the overall unemployment rate in 2010 was around five percent, for American Indians, it was over 20 percent. It was 22.2 percent.”
Hall says that percentage is an average, which means some tribal communities have even higher unemployment rates. He calls racial disparities like the ones shown in South Dakota human tragedies.