In her budget speech Tuesday, Governor Kristi Noem’s addiction to unnecessary and false superlative manifested itself when she claimed, “The last four years, we have made South Dakota the strongest state in America. We lead the nation in almost every single economic metric.”
False. We do not have the strongest GDP growth, strongest personal income growth (one of the specific metrics on which Noem claims South Dakota is “number one” while BEA’s latest figures show we are number two), strongest per capita real GDP, strongest employment rate, strongest average weekly earnings, or strongest purchasing power, strongest population growth. And those are all rates, not measures of raw economic strength. Looking at raw slivers of the national numbers—0.270% of the nation’s population , 0.267% of the nation’s GDP—makes Noem’s claim that South Dakota is the strongest state in the nation look like me lining up with the 400-pound behemoths in the World’s Strongest Man Contest and claiming I can win.
Let’s dig into another metric in which Noem says South Dakota is tops: new business applications. Obviously, we’re not going to lead in raw numbers… although why not? If our low-tax/low-wage state offers the best conditions for starting a business (and we debunked that in July), why aren’t businesses flocking here to maximize their profits?
On raw numbers, in the most recent week for which the St. Louis Fed offers data, the week ending November 26, 2022, South Dakota had 150 new business applications. The United States had 65,470. South Dakota had 0.229% of that pie. Thanksgiving made for a slow week for starting businesses. In 2022, South Dakota is averaging 206 new business applications each week, 0.210% of the national average of 98,052 per week.
Of course, any idiot can apply to start a business. What matters is whether that business will pay wages. This year, on average, only 30 of South Dakota’s 206 weekly business applications indicate that the startup has a planned date for paying wages. 14.6% is higher than the 11.6% of new business applications nationwide that indicate a planned date for paychecks. So maybe South Dakota is a leader in business plans that the owners think will produce paychecks.
It also matters whether those new businesses actually survive. In March 2022, the first-year survival rate of new South Dakota businesses was 77.6%. The national survival rate was 79.4%. We beat Montana’s 73.9% startup survival rate, did a little better than Wyoming’s 76.5% and Minnesota’s 77.3%, tied North Dakota’s 77.6%, but trailed Iowa’s 79.3% and Nebraska’s 79.3%.
The point, as usual, is that when Kristi Noem tells you South Dakota has the strongest economy in the nation, even the economic metrics she invokes don’t support her claim. Kristi Noem is an inveterate economic liar.