Today, in her State of the State Address, Governor Kristi Noem unveiled new data demonstrating the success of her Freedom Works Here initiative.
“Our state licensing boards are reporting huge increases of out-of-state applicants seeking licenses in South Dakota – including a 78% increase in plumbers, a 44% increase in electricians, and a 43% increase in accountants,” said Governor Noem in the State of the State. “Our labor force has grown by more than 10,000 people in just the last year. Our license recognition bill combined with the microphone of Freedom Works Here is a powerful tandem to fill these much-needed jobs.”
In addition to the professions highlighted in the speech, there has been an 80% increase in cosmetologists, a 22% increase in barbers, and an 11% increase in technical professions.
These numbers represent the increase in calls and emails from licensees in other states requesting information about licensure in South Dakota. Several of these individuals highlighted the Freedom Works Here campaign as a reason for their interest in moving [Governor’s Office, press release, 2024.01.09].
Note the absence of real evidence of more of the actual workers that Noem has dressed up as on TV actually going to work in South Dakota. Noem’s claim is based on requests for information about licensure, not actual arrivals and new businesses.
The claim about workforce growth is interesting, but it offers no evidence that those alleged 10,000 more workers resulted from any advertising. A look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics charts for South Dakota’s labor force and actual job count show growth trends that line up fairly well with the natural long-term growth trajectory of the last ten years:
BLS says South Dakota’s labor force (employed plus unemployed) grew 2.14% from November 2022 to November 2023. That’s the 19th-highest growth rate in the nation, but 17 other states and the District of Columbia managed to outpace us on Noem’s metric without their leaders dressing up as plumbers and running for Vice-President. Notably, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer put on no vocational-drag show and still oversaw workforce growth of 4.21%, the second-highest rate in the nation.
Governor Noem needs to try harder to connect the dots between her self-promotion campaign and any real change in job growth in South Dakota.