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Three Quarters of SD Counties, Including Six of Ten Largest, Lose Jobs over Decade

According to the latest figures available from the South Dakota Department of Labor, there were 15,480 more South Dakotans with jobs in November 2018 than there were in November 2008. Unfortunately, that job growth occurred in only a quarter of South Dakota. In the decade from the end of Bush to the middle of Trumpistan, 17 South Dakota counties put more people to work, while 48 counties lost jobs:

County Change in Labor Force Nov 2008–Nov 2018 Change in Employment Nov 2008–Nov 2018 Change in Unemployed Workers Nov 2008–Nov 2018
Minnehaha 10,619 11,239 -620
Lincoln 10,495 10,439 56
Pennington 2,388 2,576 -188
Meade 1,895 1,926 -31
Turner 386 444 -58
McCook 374 437 -63
Buffalo 198 234 -36
Marshall 198 212 -14
Hamlin 125 152 -27
Clark 84 100 -16
Ziebach 72 94 -22
Aurora 47 53 -6
Roberts 12 44 -32
Jackson 9 34 -25
Edmunds 16 17 -1
Corson -7 10 -17
Grant -61 7 -68
Tripp -28 0 -28
Moody -71 -9 -62
Lake -112 -26 -86
Miner -62 -39 -23
Faulk -46 -43 -3
Hand -66 -56 -10
Davison -133 -65 -68
Campbell -69 -72 3
Hyde -83 -79 -4
Harding -81 -80 -1
Haakon -103 -96 -7
Stanley -115 -96 -19
McPherson -121 -124 3
Day -182 -135 -47
Jones -153 -146 -7
Mellette -166 -152 -14
Potter -157 -154 -3
Spink -191 -171 -20
Douglas -189 -174 -15
Perkins -184 -178 -6
Hutchinson -226 -183 -43
Sully -199 -193 -6
Bon Homme -246 -219 -27
Beadle -275 -236 -39
Hanson -232 -246 14
Yankton -349 -248 -101
Oglala Lakota -276 -252 -24
Lyman -302 -271 -31
Sanborn -286 -273 -13
Kingsbury -313 -282 -31
Charles Mix -327 -294 -33
Union -421 -297 -124
Bennett -344 -316 -28
Dewey -373 -317 -56
Jerauld -324 -323 -1
Todd -397 -324 -73
Lawrence -402 -325 -77
Brule -341 -326 -15
Gregory -339 -340 1
Brown -337 -358 21
Clay -421 -399 -22
Custer -410 -399 -11
Hughes -444 -409 -35
Walworth -440 -439 -1
Butte -509 -502 -7
Brookings -574 -578 4
Deuel -682 -646 -36
Fall River -696 -651 -45
Codington -1,106 -997 -109
South Dakota 12,947 15,480 -2,533

The MinneLinc metropolis alone created over 21,000 new jobs over the last decade. PenniMeade (RapiSturg? SturgiRap?) added another 4,500. But our six other biggest counties—Brookings, Brown, Codington, Davison, Lawrence, and Yankton—shed 2,571 jobs, more than wiping out the 1,838 jobs gained in the other thirteen growing counties.

This disparity in job growth in South Dakota counties is worse than the disparity in population growth. Even some counties with growing populations are seeing fewer jobs, likely because of baby boomers aging out of the workforce.

As Kristi Noem gets her hands on the Future Fund, she’ll want to look at this long-term trend and think about where the labor market is growing just fine without any government welfare checks and where she might want to focus state government’s intrusion into the economy to do the most good.


  1. Rorschach 2019-01-02 06:59

    There will be no end to South Dakota’s malaise under Gov. Noem.

  2. John 2019-01-02 09:34

    Cory, thanks for running the stats. The data is more concerning, alarming, than first thought. The middle tier of towns/counties are imploding jobs, and soon population, as earlier did the more rural towns/counties. We’ll soon have 2 viable economic places remaining in SD: the FSD & RAP MSAs. Likely that’s the case now. Can’t imagine a new or re-locating business to go anywhere else given the state’s, mid-level, & rural towns devaluing education, etc. Following thereafter the state’s population will tip to urban from rural. It is curious how a couple school districts continue growing, albeit, modestly, while the county lost jobs. Likely it’s because other districts lost students in this great realignment.

  3. Donald Pay 2019-01-02 10:58

    Yup. Just think if leaders in South Dakota had some vision back in the 1990s, and had jumped on wind and solar energy development. You would be talking about growth, rather than collapse. As the dairy industry collapses, Wisconsin farmers are looking to wind and solar as a way to save the farm and provide jobs so the local economy doesn’t collapse.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-02 12:29

    Thinking about John’s comment on concentration: Turner and McCook clearly benefit from proximity to the SF metro; why aren’t Moody and Lake seeing a boost? I thought Lake in particular would show growth over the decade, since I’ve heard housing is tight there. Would Moody and Lake have posted more drastic losses without SF?

    What about the growth away from SF, in Marshall, Hamlin, and Clark? What’s behind that—CAFOs? If CAFOs are behind it, are those jobs going to disappear and leave farmers looking for energy diversification like what Donald describes in Wisconsin?

    Green revolution—green jobs—Democrats could turn that into a winning message in 75% of South Dakota’s counties, every one of which has the potential to make energy from wind and solar (whether they can sell it is open to debate and focus by GOED).

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-02 12:32

    There will be no end to the malaise without serious analysis of the above numbers and other data.

    If our fate hinges on serious analysis, Ror is right: Noem’s job will be to raise money for Republicans and win the 2022 election, not actually do anything before then.

  6. Debbo 2019-01-02 23:15

    What happened in Custer, Lawrence, Brown, Beadle, Brookings and Codington? Did a single large business depart, or was it a collection of small ones?

    Still waiting for the SDGOP economic plan to take hold. They’ve only had, what, nearly 50 years now to prove the effectiveness of being a “business friendly/labor hating” state? Should kick in any day now.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-03 12:47

    Debbo, maybe Kristi Noem will answer that question about what happened in those counties when she gives her State of the State Address, or when she lays out her GOED budget and plans.

  8. Debbo 2019-01-03 13:46

    I won’t hold my breath.

  9. Steve Pearson 2019-01-03 14:43

    This article leaves so much out. You do not know the total intricacies of employment so making these statements based on that data alone is pathetic.

    If you look at employment participation in numbers from 1/08 to 1/18 SD went from 445k to 460k working. So a positive number and there is so much not accounted for to make your evaluation. How many retired and left the work force? How much of working population left SD? There have been companies that have closed, new businesses relocated here, new ones started and the skill industry has changed also. Just in 10 years we have seen such a dramatic increase in automation and other skilled areas it is impossible to gauge. Plus factor in the Ag decline in our recent years also and that has affected employment here. We do not have a major city here in SD. We have no Fortune 500 company HQ’s and the bulk of employment here is related to healthcare, AG, and state institutions. So we are hamstringed a lot and your evaluation is simply just an attack at the Right. It is pretty tough to change our economy here because of location, weather and population…no matter what the Govt does here. That’s just pure fact.

  10. mike from iowa 2019-01-03 14:48

    And wingnuts answer to job creation in Northern Mississippi is more, unnecessary fairy cafos because milk i so cheap and needs to be cheaper. What are you and wingnuts doing to provide livable wage jobs in yer state. SP? Besides blaming Cory.

  11. Steve Pearson 2019-01-03 14:59

    Blaming Corey? I’m just asking that articles of opinion be written with knowledge of what he is writing about. He does not work in employment nor does he clearly understand all of it. If you do not cover all areas and then evaluate it is pointless other than to throw out complaints with hallowed backing.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-04 05:30

    Steve’s always got to cling to something to preserve his failing worldview. I look at real data, long-term data, and draw not particularly partisan conclusions. Jobs grew in only a quarter of South Dakota counties. They shrank in three quarters. That’s plain, alarming fact, not an attack on the right.

    But Steve’s so hypersensitive and so far more interested in insulting me than in talking about the issues, that he has to find some excuse to attack to pretend that even the plain facts I’ve laid out from state government statistics are something he can ridicule and ignore.

    I agree that everything Steve mentions is worth looking at and would help us understand why jobs shrank in so many counties and perhaps point us toward policy actions we could take to reverse that shrinkage. How much working population has left, and why? How many jobs have been lost to automation (that’s not impossible to gauge: go to a manufacturer, ask how many people they employed in 2008, how many they employ now, and what machinery they installed that allows them to do without certain staff). Why aren’t Fortune 500 companies moving here despite all our bragging and supposed good-business ratings?

    Steve is absolutely right: South Dakota has lots of economic disadvantages. I don’t hear Steve say that and shoot back, “He’s just taking a limited view to make an attack on the Left!” I say, “He’s citing a variety of factors that warrant further investigation to inform our policy response to the major problem of job decline that I’ve identified.”

    The data I highlight tell us not only where the problem is but highlight where the problem isn’t—i.e., the obvious metro areas, plus those lucky (?) rural counties.

    But Steve can’t stand it when I point out facts and evidence, because that undermines the only thesis that he comes here to talk about, that Cory is a commie liar who can’t be trusted. This article shows that I’m a reliable journalist who reports lots of useful, objective facts, and that really bugs Steve… bugs him more, sadly, than the fact that three quarters of South Dakota counties suffered job losses over the past decade. Like a true partisan hack, he wants to shrug at the real policy problem and sustain the personal attack.

  13. Steve Pearson 2019-01-04 08:44

    I’m glad you agree and I recommend you doing a story with those facts. Your opinion on me is both ridiculous and an attempt to downplay the fact that your story lacks the necessary facts needed to understand what is going on. Regardless of my actual beliefs about you, the agreement you listed is important and exactly my point. So if you’re going to be a journalist then be one and get that figured out and then write a story.

  14. jerry 2019-01-04 08:55

    If you’re a Federal worker, that is getting screwed by the trump/republican shutdown, here is a resource page to help guide you through unemployment benefits. Keep in mind that your health insurance is still in place and you’re still covered just as you were.

    Republicans in the senate could put the whole country back to work again with the same vote they did before trump pooped his pants and got all cranky in his mess.

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