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Noem Advertises Bad Math Skills; South Dakota Plumber Pay Ranks in Bottom 10

Kristi Noem has launched a new “Freedom Works Here” ad, this time pretending to be an accountant and, in a brave stand for truth in advertising allowing State Treasurer Josh Haeder to point out her bad math skills and invite her to demonstrate her scorn for accuracy:

Noem probably switched out of her plumber duds for this ad because a new analysis from Construction Coverage shows that South Dakota has some of the lowest wages for plumbers in the country. Even adjusting for a purported 9.9% lower cost of living, Construction Coverage finds South Dakota plumbers have a median annual wage 9.4% lower than the national median.

Here is a summary of the data for South Dakota:

  • Median annual wage for plumbers (adjusted): $54,444
  • Median annual wage for plumbers (actual): $49,080
  • Median annual wage for all workers (actual): $39,870
  • Relative concentration of plumbers (compared to average): +32%
  • Relative cost of living (compared to average): -9.9%

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Median annual wage for plumbers (adjusted): $60,090
  • Median annual wage for plumbers (actual): $60,090
  • Median annual wage for all workers (actual): $46,310
  • Relative concentration of plumbers (compared to average): N/A
  • Relative cost of living (compared to average): N/A [Construction Coverage, “South Dakota Ranked as One of the Top 10 Worst-Paying States for Plumbers in the U.S.,” via NewsCenter1 Rapid City, 2023.12.03]

South Dakota ranks #10 at the bottom of the plumber pay scale. Plumbers can find better pay in any adjoining state, especially in Montana and Minnesota:

After adjusting for the cost of living, Illinois ($97,000), Montana ($81,776), Alaska ($80,554), Oregon ($77,588), and Minnesota ($77,157) are the top five states with the highest median annual wages for plumbers. These states stand in stark contrast to the states with the lowest adjusted wages: Florida ($47,481) and Virginia ($49,375). The disparity between the top and bottom states is so great that adjusted yearly pay for plumbers in Illinois is more than Florida and Virginia combined [Construction Coverage, 2023.12.03].

Accountants fare a little better than plumbers in South Dakota. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says South Dakota’s median wage for accountants, $67,350, ranks 34th in the nation, ahead of Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and North Dakota but still trailing Montana (33rd at $68,460) and Minnesota (19th at $76,200).


  1. Richard Schriever 2023-12-04 06:29

    That proportional concentration number suggest SD already has TOO MANY plumbers (more competition for jobs/bidding) driving down each other’s earnings.

  2. Yvonne Hollenbeck 2023-12-04 08:23

    She fails to mention that those plumbers and accountants (and everyone else performing a service) also have to charge a tax on those services that is equivalent to the sales tax assessed for the community the service is performed at. The adjoining states don’t have that tax.

  3. sx123 2023-12-04 08:40

    Ha, move to South Dakota for lower wages and intense winters.

    Yes Richard, I’ve mentioned before locals don’t need more competition brought in. I have first hand knowledge of a very long time local electrician that told me there are too many in the area already.

    She should be targetting those that can make use of the amazing fiber optic internet we have in a lot of areas here. Not joking.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-04 20:43

    Yes, there are lots of folks who do plumbing in South Dakota but what percentage are actual plumbers may be another question. “Do you know a good plumber?” is a question I’ve heard many times. For most plumbing jobs the level of expertise of the plumber may be irrelevant. After all there are only two things every plumber needs to know. But…for new construction, multi story buildings or complicated systems, a good plumber is essential.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-04 20:49

    By the way, same situation is at play with accountants.

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