The Minneapolis Fed, with help from the Minnesota state tourism office and the state’s hotel lobbying group, surveyed over 300 tourism businesses in late August and found two thirds reporting that their customer counts and revenue had returned to or exceeded pre-coronavirus levels. Still, 37.9% of survey respondents said this summer’s visitors still didn’t beat pre-pandemic levels, while 34.9% said they made less money this summer than back in the before times.
The Fed also asked what those tourism jobs paid this summer. Across Minnesota, four out of five workers at hotels, campgrounds, and tourist attractions made $15 an hour or better, including tips. More than 35% made $20 an hour or better.
Note that in the Twin Cities, every restaurant and bar reports paying $15 or better.
The Fed doesn’t have a comparable survey of South Dakota’s tourism-related conditions, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in May 2021, Minnesota’s median wage for food service workers was 19.3% better than South Dakota’s and its mean wage was 15.3% better. According to regional price parity data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the cost of living in Minnesota was only 7.8% higher than South Dakota’s in 2020. Thus, moving from South Dakota to Minnesota to wait tables would be a net financial gain for servers so inclined.
And most of those Minnesota bars, restaurants, and tourist attractions are hiring. The Minneapolis Fed’s September presentation on its tourism industry survey indicates that nearly 80% of respondents report moderately tight or very tight labor availability:
Workers can find a lot of Help Wanted signs in South Dakota, too, but they can’t find as much paycheck or purchasing power as they can in Minnesota.