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Jobs Grow Slowly in South Dakota; Gov’s Office Struggles to Respond Logically

So far in my compilation of economic facts that call into question Governor Kristi Noem’s repeated claim that “South Dakota has the strongest economy in the nation,” I have cited the following facts:

  1. South Dakota’s per-capita personal income has been below the national average for eight of the last ten years.
  2. South Dakota’s per-capita personal income has grown more slowly than national per-capita personal income over the past ten years.
  3. Governor Noem’s Bureau of Finance and Management projects that South Dakota’s real gross domestic product will grow more slowly than the national real GDP in both 2021 and 2022.
  4. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia generate more GDP per capita than South Dakota.
  5. South Dakota’s economy has generated less state budget surplus per capita than the Minnesota economy, despite South Dakota’s receiving far more federal coronavirus relief/stimulus money per capita than Minnesotans.
  6. Five states have lower unemployment rates than South Dakota.

Yesterday I noticed statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that provide a seventh metric to demonstrate that South Dakota fails to live up to Noem’s claim of the state’s absolute economic supremacy. From November 2020 to November 2021, South Dakota tied Maine and Alaska for the second-lowest rate of nonfarm job growth in the U.S.:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Change in Nonfarm Employment by State, Seasonally Adjusted, Nov 2020–Nov 2021; retrieved 2021.12.29.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Change in Nonfarm Employment by State, Seasonally Adjusted, Nov 2020–Nov 2021, retrieved 2021.12.29.

Nationwide, the number of jobs grew by 3.8%; in South Dakota (and Maine, and Alaska), jobs grew by only 1.8%. Only Wyoming added jobs more slowly, at a mere 0.6% over the last twelve months.

I tweeted this observation yesterday—”South Dakota tied Maine and Alaska for second-lowest job growth over last 12 months. ‘Strongest economy in the nation,’ @govkristinoem?“⁩—and evidently the seventh data point is the charm for getting the attention of the Governor’s Office. Governor Noem unleashed her Fury—spokesperson Ian Fury—with this Twitter response this morning:

Noem spokesperson Ian Fury, Twitter response, 2021.12.29.
Noem spokesperson Ian Fury, Twitter response, 2021.12.29.

12 months ago, South Dakota’s unemployment rate was already down to 3.6%, lower than the nation’s is TODAY.

Are you wilfully misleading or just economically illiterate? Given your liberal proclivities, I think the latter is far more likely [Ian Fury, Twitter response, 2021.12.29].

I appreciate Fury’s British spelling of wilfully. It’s more fun debating posh conservatives, almost Buckleyesque. My appreciation ends here.

I have you six responses.

  1. My opponent does not respond to my central point: “the strongest economy in the nation” ought to be creating jobs at a faster rate than all the allegedly weaker state economies. From November 2020 to November 2021, South Dakota’s economy did not do that. South Dakota’s economy thus does not appear to be the strongest in the nation.
  2. My opponent attempts to change the subject to the unemployment rate, which is a very different statistic that does not refute the point I make. The fact that South Dakotans did not lose jobs at as high a rate as the rest of the nation in 2020 is not a sign that South Dakota has the strongest economy in the nation in 2021.
  3. South Dakota traditionally lags behind national economic trends and does not swing as far in either national busts or national booms. Less variance in our unemployment rate may indicate a more stable economy, but it does not prove a stronger economy, let alone the strongest. Stability may just mean South Dakota’s economy is stagnant.
  4. I will grant that South Dakota’s unemployment is really low and that that’s a good thing. But in my #6 at the top, I’ve already established that several other states have even lower unemployment. Clinging to that metric does not save the Governor’s argument that we have “the strongest economy in the nation.”
  5. While it’s not my burden to make my opponent’s arguments for him, my opponent may be trying to say that we must look at job creation rates in context, that the higher rates of job creation almost everywhere else only show other states recovering the much greater numbers of jobs that they lost due to coronavirus in 2020 than South Dakota did. But historically, if we compare November 2021 job numbers with Novembers in 2019, 2011, 2001, 1991, and 1981, we find that South Dakota’s job creation over those varying periods is sometimes higher and sometimes lower than the national average but has never been the highest—i.e., strongest—in the nation. So no matter how long a span we consider—one year, ten years, forty years—South Dakota’s job growth never supports Governor Noem’s claim that we have “the strongest economy in the nation.”
  6. The second half of my opponent’s response, an all-too-quick turn from the facts on the flow to his opponent’s intent and character, refutes none of the data or reasoning I have presented. Our political proclivities have no bearing on the economic data in question, and my argument has nothing to do with my assumptions about Fury’s character or intent. My argument boils down to, “Independent economic data show South Dakota’s economy performing with less strength than other states’ economies.” My opponent’s argument, and his employer’s, boils down to, “Our saying something makes it so, and you’re a bastard for questioning us.” My position is superior not only factually but logically and rhetorically.

I thank the Governor’s Office for providing me with a diverting Wednesday evening. I will welcome the Governor’s Office to stop making ridiculously absolute claims about the economy that a multitude of economic data clearly refute.


  1. brent r mcmillan 2021-12-29 22:27

    Just saw krispi on faux news. I’m a little worried about her, lips all swollen, white as her klan sheet. Did byron slap her across her rocksucker? Maybe it was poison mushrooms?

  2. SamK 2021-12-29 22:32

    “Don’t mess with the bull, Ian. You’ll get the horns!”

  3. jerry 2021-12-29 23:24

    Well played sir. Let the game continue. Soon Fury will be in contact with his old boss, Gym Jordan on what the hell to do next. Probably just tweet in caps.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-12-30 04:57

    Gosh, attacked by a paid professional proper gander. A government bureauquack. Way to go Mr. Heidelberger. Congratulations.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-12-30 05:50

    You know Mr. Fury, since you read the Dakotafreepress, why does South Dakota have approximately 500 more covid deaths than North Dakota? Could that mere three month mandate that their governor had, have done that? I know those North Dakotans have legally gotten rid of any mandates so they are trying to catch up with the deaths in South Dakota. Have they made their Governor apologize for saving lives? Dont bother, I’ll check myself. Ms. Noem has framed her killing by inaction as freedom and touted the economy that has been propped up by Biden as the best in the nation. What a whopper from killer Kristi. What is the ranking of South Dakota in covid deaths per capita by the way? I’m sure its near the top 10 too. She should announce that on Fox news along with her economic claims, its always a tradeoff isn’t it?

  6. Donald Pay 2021-12-30 09:27

    Your point 3 is key. Job growth slows if you are already near full employment. South Dakota generally has less swing in its employment numbers, and other economic data because its major employers are in industries less prone to layoffs during downturns and quick hiring on upswings. This also applies to Noem’s claims about relatively low unemployment numbers during the pandemic. There’s something to be said for stability, but it tends to produce lower wages and less upward mobility. That’s why people move away.

  7. cibvet 2021-12-30 10:51

    Correct Donald. One never has far to fall when we are at or near the bottom. It is the educated that move away and that is why we are a welfare red state that will never rise above our lowly status.

  8. Jake 2021-12-30 10:55

    Good Job, Cory! Damn-you are to be commended-another ‘Tip of the Hatlo Hat!’ to yo, sir! (tip jar) for a post that damned sure puts the hay in the haymow! Thanks for all you do-and the input from so many others here, including those ‘pesky’ “out-of-staters” that just so happen to be citizens of this country like all of us, and ideas don’t stop at state borders like some would prefer, like grudz.

  9. John 2021-12-30 12:46

    Neom, similar to Bush, the senior, Daugaard and Rounds, are failed executives for they failed “that vision thing”.
    “Where there is no vision, the people perish;” Pv 28:19
    South Dakotans are no better off after the three were governor.

  10. 96Tears 2021-12-30 16:32

    Full of sound in Fury, signifying nothing. Again.

    As experienced in public jabbery as Mr. Fury’s resume indicates, this is one more classic reason why reaching out to hire national political hacks to take key positions in the South Dakota Governor’s office is an incredibly amateurish mistake. First, Noem’s strongest economy in the nation allegation is a foolish statement. Anybody from South Dakota would never make such a claim, especially when it’s easily and thoroughly disproved.

    Noem is getting stupid and reckless advice, or perhaps The Snow Queen is untethered and counsels nobody before opening her ignorant trap. Anybody who’s been around in this state knows that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown South Dakota to chronically end up in or near last place in the category of average W2 wage earners’ paychecks. Statistics have also shown that the South Dakota labor force ranks among the highest in adults with multiple jobs (a.k.a., moonlighting) to keep food on their families’ tables and roofs over their heads. The state also has led the nation in parents needing to work, leaving the kids home alone, with a neighborhood babysitter or some kind of child care (oh, wait, there is a tremendous shortage of child care, according to The Snow Queen, so people can take more jobs).

    We got jobs. Lots of them. We got people who have as many jobs as they can handle. Low unemployment is not the problem. Underemployment is and has been for a long, long time. So, where’s the growth making South Dakota the “strongest” economy?

    Excellent analysis again, Mr. Heidelberger. Keep it up. The Fury can make all the noise he wants, but a press statement does not create measurable wealth or growth. Just a lot more sound from Fury.

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