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Government Biggest Employer in South Dakota, Followed by Health/Social Services, Retail, Tourism

In keeping with our economic dependence on socialism, government employs more South Dakotans than any other industry sector. According to the Bureau of Finance and Management’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Review for Fiscal Year 2021, 18.0% of South Dakota’s nonfarm workers, over 80,000 South Dakotans, punch a government time clock:

Bureau of Finance and Management, "Employment by Industry Type," Annual Comprehensive Financial Report FY 2021, December 2021, p. 188.
Bureau of Finance and Management, “Employment by Industry Type,” Annual Comprehensive Financial Report FY 2021, December 2021, p. 188.

55.3% of nonfarm South Dakota workers work in government, health care and social assistance, retail, and leisure/hospitality.

The BFM’s ACFR21 doesn’t provide numbers on farm employment, but the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports 32,529 full-time and part-time farm jobs in South Dakota in 2020. Ignoring overlap of farmers and their hired hands holding second jobs in town, those 32,529 jobs would make agriculture the seventh-largest employer in South Dakota, employing 6.8% of the expanded farm+nonfarm workforce.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-12-26

    You know my first job after college was working as a designer for the State Planning Bureau. Nine months or so and then the job went away. So I used my slackardness and moved to Aberdeen from Pierre, just worked in my studio and collected unemployment until I met my future wife and had to take a job at Sears as display manager because my dad was going to have me work on a line crew again. Couldn’t leave my girl so I went into the retail trade. I also worked on the side in a bronze casting studio. A job is a job in other words, but thanks South Dakota for the year of paying me. So overall I’ve worked for a year or two in construction, 3 or 4 in retail. 35 in education, 31 of that in Private education, forgot a year in manufacturing and three or four in managing retarded adults ( no it wasn’t a job in the Republican party). All the while I’ve made sculpture which I guess is other services on your list. Sooo I’ve really been employed by the state for say 5 to 6 years. Thanks taxpayers. By the way I’ve spent a great deal of my money in the leisure and hospitality industry, bars of course. I wouldn’t change a thing. 15 or so different jobs jeez, luckily Ihad one for over 30 years. The only time I actually punched a time clock was in manufacturing.
    Which leads to a question, since that job was manufacturing heavy equipment to haul tanks for the military and other jobs are actually working in jobs that are payed by money coming from the state but not state jobs. What percentage of employment is in actuality paid for by government and is really socialism, cradle to grave ?

  2. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-26

    Well…no surprise here. A large part of Health Care and Social Assistance is in Nursing Homes, as we are a state with an aging population. Programs for the aging need consistent support as a significant part of the aging population are in rural, difficult to provide services areas, of the state.

  3. jkl 2021-12-27

    I rèmeber when I moved to SD some 30 years ago I was told, “South Dakotans are fiercely independent”. What a bunch of hooey! In my time here since I have found out that they/we are more than willing to take a hand out from anyone who will give it. From page 24 of the report:

    “This fiscal year, the State received 34.4% of its revenues from taxes (sales, motor fuel, contractors excise, bank card, bank franchise, and other taxes), and 51.4% from federal grants and contributions. Charges for services accounted for 9.3%.”

  4. mike from iowa 2021-12-27

    Despite the billions given to farmers, they don’t even register in this poll. No wonder they tend to vote for magats.

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