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Always Room for More Actual Policy Solutions to South Dakota’s Chronic Workforce Shortage

Governor Kristi Noem claims that 6,166 people have applied to move to South Dakota thanks to her ridiculous dress-up ads and says “there’s always room for more” in “the freest state in America“.

There’s certainly room in the workforce: according to the United States Chamber of Commerce, South Dakota has the fourth-most intense worker shortage in America:

Lindsay Cates and Stephanie Ferguson, "Understanding America's Labor Shortage: The Most Impacted States," U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2023.08.10.
Lindsay Cates and Stephanie Ferguson, “Understanding America’s Labor Shortage: The Most Impacted States,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2023.08.10.

The U.S. Chamber reports that South Dakota has just 38 workers for every 100 job openings. The only states with worse worker/opening ratios are North Dakota at 37/100 and Maryland and New Hampshire at 36/100. Washington, California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York are the only states with even  a few more available workers than openings.

Governor Noem pretends that this workforce shortage arises from her supposedly unique focus on Freedom™ (which is code for not governing). However, South Dakota’s workforce shortage is a chronic condition exacerbated by factors the Governor isn’t doing much to address, like lower immigration and a shortage of childcare:

Net International Migration to the U.S. is at its lowest levels in decades

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that net international migration to the U.S. only contributed to a 247,000 person increase to the U.S. population between 2020 and 2021. Compared to the prior decade’s high of a 1,049,000 increase in our population between 2015 and 2016 due to immigration, the impact that immigration has had on U.S. population growth dropped by 76%. Read more about this in our Immigration Data Center.

Lack of access to childcare

Even before the pandemic, a lack of access to high quality, affordable childcare was an issue. Research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that due to breakdowns in the childcare system, the states surveyed (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, and Texas) missed an estimated average of $2.7 billion annually for their economies.

A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The Education Trust shows that the pandemic created a vicious cycle for the industry; to return to work, workers need reliable childcare, but providers are facing immense challenges themselves. The pandemic forced many childcare providers to close or scale down: between February and April 2020, the industry lost 370,600 jobs — 95% of which were held by women. Unfortunately, the recovery has not been swift; as late as September 2021, childcare industry employment remained 10 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Additionally, women are participating in the labor force the lowest rates since the 1970s. In the spring of 2020, 3.5 million mothers left their job, driving the labor force participation rate for working moms from around 70% to 55%. This number is improving – but it has not fully rebounded [Stephanie Ferguson, “Understanding America’s Labor Shortage,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2023.08.10].

If Kristi were getting back to her real job (which her new video suggests is getting all made up, standing front of her barren desk, and giving an awkward Trumpian thumbs-up), she’d be promoting more international migration and working on South Dakota’s lack of affordable child care.


  1. Algebra 2023-09-07

    it is interesting that economic conditions which allow mothers the option of being stay-at-home-moms is a bad thing in your eyes.
    If women are going on the mommy track, it means their husbands make enough money to support the family.
    My nephew’s wife is a lawyer who became a SAHM. Thats a lot of years and money sunk into acquiring credentials she isnt using. I remember my SAHM years, when I was married to a physician. It was a good time. It is interesting to listen to women talk about the SAHM option. One woman talking about another “she’s been very fortunate, in all her married life she has never had to work.” My sister on the subject: “being a SAHM is a privilege many of us never get.” A woman who was talking about a financial stability course she and her husband took: “if we can stick to it, in another year I can stay home.”
    Here’s the thing about workforce participation: everybody who can afford to retire usually does.

  2. John 2023-09-07

    Yes, it appears the SD governor is incapable of reading a demographic pyramid and common logic. The SD workers needed today came from births 15-40 years ago – but that did not occur in the numbers needed. There is only one way now to increase workers – immigration. Most of that immigration must come from besieged places in Central America or Africa. No one in their right mind will immigrate to South Dakota from states with higher wages, better health care, and better education opportunities. There may be an exception for retirees – but South Dakota does not need anymore useless eaters, for it has too many already.

  3. sx123 2023-09-07

    Lack of access to childcare: Well, need to come up with a solution to the limits of in-house childcare and publicly belittling larger childcare providers that take covid funds. Many of the people providing childcare for the community do so out of their houses, and some get shut down for having too many kids per worker, leaving them _and_ parents in a big bind.

  4. e platypus onion 2023-09-07

    Algebra apparently believes all pregnant women are happily preggers and do not mind being forced to deliver a live child (or else) for the state gestapo. Women in America have lost their autonomy to narrow minded, fake over godders who ignore science and reality because they know what’s best for women.

    Women don’t stay at home because their mates earn enough money, not in Northern Mississippi they sure don’t. Until immgration allows enough workers to compete for each available job, wages will stagnate and only te wealthiest will get ahead.

  5. Donald Pay 2023-09-07

    Childcare is a big problem, but so is child safety and welfare. Sure, you can warehouse kids by stacking them into a house with one or two people trying to keep them out of mischief. Or you can chain them up in a room. Childcare solved. But if you are being realistic, any Mom, Dad, teacher or childcare worker knows that problems increase exponentially with each additional kid. How many kids you can handle probably depends a lot on their age, what issues the kids have and what issues you have. And that’s not even considering whether you are doing things like art projects, learning about the alphabet, etc., etc. It’s not the same everyday, either. So, limits have to be set, even if they aren’t perfect for the economy.

  6. David Bergan 2023-09-07

    “The politics that surrounded women’s collective decision to migrate into the workforce are a study in misdirection. On the left, the women’s movement was battling for equal pay and equal opportunity, and any suggestion that the family might be better off with Mother at home was discounted as reactionary chauvinism. On the right, conservative commentators accused working mothers of everything from child abandonment to defying the laws of nature. The atmosphere was far too charged for any rational assessment of the financial consequences of sending both spouses into the workforce. The massive miscalculation ensued because both sides of the political spectrum discounted the financial value of the stay-at-home mother. There was no room in either worldview for the capable, resourceful mother who might spend her days devoted to the roles of wife and mother but who could, if necessary, dive headlong into the workforce to support her family. No one saw the stay-at-home mom as the family’s safety net.”

    Kind regards,

  7. O 2023-09-07

    I’m still at a loss to understand exactly what jobs are being unfilled. Why for example is anyone working a fast-food kitchen job (going home at night smelling like EVERYTHING on the menu) if there are far better — better paying — jobs unfilled? Second, what kind of business genius is trying to start up a business in an environment where there is no available workforce to draw from? Is this a labor shortage or a business glut?

  8. Donald Pay 2023-09-07

    The assumption that one job can support a family of four went down the tubes quickly in the 1980s. During the 70s, single and childless woman worked, because they hed to and wanted to. By the time boomers started cranking out kids, the economy was down the tubes, unions had lost a lot of power, conservative policies assured loss of good blue collar jobs to outsourcing, and women had to work to pay the bills. You can thank Adam Smith for beginning the discounting of work in the home. It started at the very beginning of capitalism.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-07

    Child Care, in fact, government subsidized child care, is the key component to solving both the “job problem” and raising the income of South Dakota “working families.” There is no other viable solution. The prospects of government action through the South Dakota Legislature are slim and none.

  10. P. Aitch 2023-09-07

    Hear, hear, Arlo.

  11. ABC 2023-09-10

    Noem has produced high wage jobs?

    She has been on the public trough for so many years. Does she know what a job with a company is?

    High wage jobs are not produced by Noem. We produce them. Why wait for Google to come into town, when you can be (Google)*(Apple)*(JP Morgan Chase)3. (Cubed)

    Or Google times Apple times JP Morgan Chase raised to the 3rd power.

    Many trillions!

    It can be ours! Don’t wait for November 2024. Create it now!

  12. John 2023-09-10

    This article taps part of the problem . . . colleges have not added value in decades. So why not become a plumber or electrician?
    Get a 6-figure business management degree, hang the diploma on the wall, and return to work at dad’s plumbing shop.

    Yet, the worker shortage problem remains – most of these self-employed trade folks are challenged to find workers. Workers they do find, are challenged to find daycare. As Lincoln said, ‘labor is superior to capital’ — we ought to act like it.

  13. John 2023-09-13

    South Dakota could easily double its assimilation of immigrants. Easily. Targeting immigrants of working ages will fix the worker shortage.

    “South Dakota’s Hispanic population more than doubled over the past 12 years and now helps keep many small towns vibrant, a trend seen in other rural areas of the U.S., according to census data and experts.

    There were an estimated 44,581 Latino individuals living in South Dakota as of 2022, or nearly 5% of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    That base number is more than double the 2010 census count (22,119, or 2.7%) and more than four times the 2000 count (10,903, 1.4%). Hispanics are the third-largest racial/ethnic demographic group in South Dakota behind non-Hispanic whites (84.2%) and Native Americans (8.5%).”

  14. john 2023-09-15

    Of course, immigrants are ALWAYS part of the America’s problem. Except of course, your immigrant forbears.

    “the Karen (kuh-RIN) ethnic group, a people native to Myanmar (formerly Burma) whose members have fled the world’s longest civil war for decades to create a global diaspora of nearly 2 million. Another 5 million Karen still live in Thailand or Myanmar.
    Since 2006, nearly 3,000 have either moved to Huron for jobs, initially at a turkey processing plant, or have been born there to migrant parents.
    The Karen were among the first in a continuing wave of migrants from southeast Asia, Mexico, and Central and South America that turned Huron into the state’s most diverse city per capita outside of Indian Country.”
    “Today, about a decade after the dust settled on its unique plan to manage those issues, the city of 14,000 has seen its Karen population thrive. City leaders say that’s been a boon for the community at large.
    Refugees from the Karen ethnic group, originally from Myanmar (formerly Burma), began moving to Huron in 2006, initially to work at a turkey plant in Beadle County. Unlike some migrant populations, many in the Karen community have embraced the city as a permanent home.
    In addition to their work for area factories, the new Americans have opened three churches of their own and bolstered the membership of another. Some in the younger generation have begun working in a professional capacity for the school district, the city’s health care system and in real estate. Other Karen residents have launched businesses or embraced higher education.
    It’s a present the city’s recent past couldn’t have predicted.”

  15. grudznick 2023-09-15


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