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Poor Marksman: Fury Misses Target with Economic Recovery Statistic

“New year, same story!” shouts Ian Fury as he wishes me a Happy New Year today (the Governor’s spokesboy appears to have confused Orthodox Christmas with Julian/Russian Старый Новый Год, but let’s not confuse the lad) and tweets me this Moody’s/CNN stat to try rebuilding his boss’s well-refuted claim that South Dakota has the strongest economy in America:

Ian Fury, tweet, 2022.01.07.
Ian Fury, tweet, 2022.01.07.

According to the Governor’s speaker, having the highest Back-to-Normal Index, the calculation Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business make to compare each state’s current economic condition to its March 2020 pre-pandemic level, means a state has the “#StrongestEconomyinAmerica”. (I search Twitter, and Fury appears to be the first and only person in the Twitterverse to use that hashtag.)

According to Moody’s and CNN, South Dakota’s economy is running at 92.9% of its pre-pandemic level. Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, and West Virginia are also in the 90s on the Back to Normal Index.

South Dakota actually surged past 100% of March 2020 economic activity at the end of April and climbed to 115.5% at the middle of the Sturgis Rally on August 11. Then our Back-to-Normal Index took a hard dip back toward the March 2020 baseline. We had a pre-Christmas spike back to 113.2%, but we’ve plunged over 20 points since then.

Moody's Analytics and CNN Business, Back to Normal Index, South Dakota vs. United States, Feb 29 2020 thru Jan 4 2022, retrieved 2022.01.07.
Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business, Back to Normal Index, South Dakota vs. United States, Feb 29 2020 thru Jan 4 2022, retrieved 2022.01.07.

Interestingly, the United States over the last couple weeks has seen a holiday slump of just under 10 percentage points. Hmm… since December 22, South Dakota has seen its rating drop more, in raw points and proportionate to its recent peak, than the United States as a whole. Moody’s says omicron coronavirus is sandbagging the economy everywhere, but South Dakota has fallen further than the rest of the country. Is that a sign of economic strength?

If you haven’t figured it out, Fury is citing a statistic that does not say what he says it says. The Back-to-Normal Index measures each state’s economic health relative to each state’s economic health 22 months ago. Saying that South Dakota is closer to its normal than Minnesota (84%) or Nebraska (88%) or any other state is to its normal can’t tell us which state is strongest unless we know their normals.

Consider a coronavirus example applied to people. Imagine two runners, Minnie and Sophie Dawn. Prior to the pandemic, Minnie could run 6-minute miles, while Sophie Dawn could do no better than 7-minute miles. Then coronavirus hit. Both Minnie and Sophie Dawn got sick. Minnie’s case was more severe than Sophie Dawn’s, but both had to take a break from running. After they both recover and spend a few weeks in training, Minnie finds that her Back-to-Normal Running Index—a measure of how much ground she can cover in a one hour run—is 85% of what it was before she got sick. Sophie Dawn’s Back-to-Normal Running Index is 93%.

“93%! Whoo-hoo! #StrongestRunnerinAmerica!” Sophie Dawn thumbs into her phone… as, after an hour’s run, she’s a half-mile behind Minnie. Sophie Dawn lost less of a step than Minnie did, and she should be thankful for her good luck. But Minnie is still the stronger runner, posting 7.1-minute miles versus Sophie Dawn’s 7.5-minute miles.

The Back-to-Normal Index alone can’t tell us anything about which state’s economy is the strongest. It only tells us that, right now, like every other state, South Dakota’s economy is weaker than it was before the pandemic, so maybe we ought to take fighting the pandemic seriously so we can all get back to running at full speed.

Fury has yet to refute any of the numerous metrics I’ve cited to challenge his boss’s argument that South Dakota has the strongest economy in the nation. Meanwhile, I’ve demonstrated an inherent flaw in Fury’s application of the Back-to-Normal Index to his argument. Fury’s claim thus remains unsupported.

He and Kristi may have managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman, Fury keeps missing the target.

Happy New Year, indeed.


  1. DaveFN 2022-01-07 23:00

    “Fury is citing a statistic that does not say what he says it says.”

    Who woulda thunk?

    Thanks, Cory.

  2. Bill 2022-01-08 07:02

    Published in 1954, I guess “How To Lie With Statistics” is still relevant.

  3. Nick Nemec 2022-01-08 09:02

    “Math is hard.” Barbie (1992), Kristi (2022).

  4. larry kurtz 2022-01-08 10:33

    Well, the medical industry is doing very well and maybe they’re getting paid but more probably we can expect bankruptcy attorneys are following suit as uninsured unvaccinated Republicans lose everything, so there is that. Onward christianic capitalism.

  5. John 2022-01-08 11:03

    Do not confuse the poor boy, Fury, with the maths. STEM is hard. Too hard for politicians. Too hard for judges and justices.

  6. cibvet 2022-01-08 11:30

    Pitiful marksman is more like it! Noem’s entire administration couldn’t hit a hog in the ass with a handful of corn.

  7. Porter Lansing 2022-01-08 11:37

    PS … It matters little where the Heidelberger Homebase might be. Cory’s living “rent free” in the head of Ian Fury and the gut of Kristi Noem.

  8. 96Tears 2022-01-08 12:15

    Again, more sound of Fury signifying nothing. Who is the idiot pulling the puppet’s strings here? I checked to see if morons are on The Snow Queen’s cabinet. Actually, they appear reasonably intelligent, some with impressive educations. My guess is the blathering’s author is actually The Snow Queen who got her bachelor degree online. Some suspect she didn’t earn the degree but received it as a gift. Not likely, until she opens her mouth.

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-01-08 16:18

    Killer Fury has to earn his keep. He’s not very intelligent you know.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2022-01-08 18:38

    This Fury fellow costs the taxpayer around $125,000 per year plus maintenance. That’s a lot of money for a fellow who is lost on the time/space continuum. He’s confused most of the time and does not seem to know where or what role he is to play in this nightmare.

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