Tuesday, 26 March 2019 07:42

Nursing Pays In South Dakota

A great deal of concern has been voiced recently regarding wages for registered nurses (RNs) in South Dakota. A recent article argued that South Dakota’s RNs are drastically underpaid relative to the nation as a whole. The article pointed out that average annual wages for an RN in South Dakota were $57,010 in 2017; compared to $57,930 in Iowa and $62,210 in Nebraska, for example.

So why do RNs earn less in South Dakota? A full explanation might be too much, but a couple simple factors like taxes and the overall cost of living can explain much of the disparity.

Let’s start with taxes. The article points out that nationally, the highest average pay for an RN was found in California, $102,700 per year in 2017. An RN in California earning $102,700 would pay an estimated $6,591 in state income taxes, 9.3% of their annual income. They would also have to pay sales and use tax rates between 7.25% and 10.25%, depending on location. In contrast, an RN in South Dakota pays no state income tax and faces a state and local sales tax rate between 4.5% and 6.5%.

The second point of consideration is the general cost of living. Housing in South Dakota, though not necessarily in Rapid City, is generally less expensive than in many parts of the country. Food, transportation, and health care also tend to be less expensive in South Dakota than they are in other states. As a result of these regionally price disparities, a dollar goes farther in South Dakota than in many other areas of the country.

So how do RN wages stack up once we look at the actual purchasing power of RN wages by taking taxes and the cost of living into account? South Dakota jumps from 51st in the nation to 34th in the nation for RN pay. In fact, the purchasing power of the average RN wage is South Dakota ($53,005) was actually higher than the purchasing power of average RN wages in both Nebraska ($52,629) and Iowa ($49,531).

The same pattern shows up when looking at states with even higher average wages for RNs. In California, the purchasing power of the estimated $102,700 in RN wages drops to $63,269. That means that the original $45,690 disparity in wages between RNs in California and South Dakota drops to only $10,264 after taking taxes and the costs of living into account.

And RNs in Minnesota take a big hit as well once we look at purchasing power rather than just average wages. The average annual wage for an RN in Minnesota during 2017 was $77,540 but the purchasing power of that wage was only $58,528. The result, a $20,530 disparity in wages between RNs in Minnesota and South Dakota drops to only $5,523 after taking taxes and the costs of living into account.

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The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation (SDDLR) recently released an expansive review of the state’s labor market conditions. The report provides insights into recent employment and wage trends across the state. The report also demonstrates the need for diversification in the regional economy.


One of the more troubling statistics highlighted in the report was the continued decline of the labor force participation rate in South Dakota. The labor force participation rate measures the fraction of the overall population that are either employed or looking for work. It typically rises as the economy gains strength and more people either find work or start looking for it. But even though the economy is performing well, SDDLR reported an estimated 8,200 people in 2017 wanted a job but had not searched for one in the last year.

According to the SDDLR report, 54% of all private employment in South Dakota during 2017 was in businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Another 13% of private employment was in businesses with between 50 and 99 employees. As a result, two-thirds of all private employment was in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

The Rapid City region could benefit greatly from increased small business formation, especially in the goods producing sector. According to the SDDLR report, total nonfarm employment in the Rapid City MSA (Custer, Meade, and Pennington Counties) increased by 1,000 jobs during 2017. All 1,000 jobs were in the service sector, and the SDDLR data showed no net job creation in the manufacturing, mining, or construction industries.

As federal dollars pour into the area to support Ellsworth Air Force Base and the Sanford Underground Research Facility, many new business opportunities will arise for manufacturing and materials support. Some existing companies such as VRC Metal Systems – a specialty manufacturing firm that contracts with the Air Force – have already started to take advantage of such market opportunities. VRC, supported by a 75% increase in revenue since 2017, expanded from 36 to 50 employees over the same period. Increasing the number of companies like VRC is crucial to improving the overall economic health of the region.

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South Dakota has the largest employment gap between American Indians and Whites in the nation, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Census. In 2016, the employment rate of  White adults in South Dakota was 35.2 percentage points higher than for American Indian adults.

South Dakota ranked 49th in the nation for proportion of American Indian adults working at just 45.2% in 2016. By comparison, 80.4% of White adults were at work—the second highest proportion in the nation. Overall, the Rushmore State ranked No. 6 in the nation for proportion of adults working. The table below highlights the proportion of adults at work  by ethnicity for all states in the northern plains region.

Regional Employment Rates (%)
Asian Black Hispanic White
 Iowa  61.9 66.5 62.1 70.3 80.2
 Minnesota  53.5 70.9 62.6 71.5 79.6
 Montana 49.9 67.5 67.4 66.9 72.8
 Nebraska 52.9 66.1 65.3 71.3 79.6
 North Dakota 53.2 76.0 73.2 74.7 80.6
 South Dakota 45.2 67.5 66.9 69.6 80.4
 Wyoming  54.2 68.1 62.8 71.8 74.8

The data show that employment disparities existed between White working adults and other minority groups as well. Asian South Dakotan adults are 12.9% less likely to be at work than White (non-Hispanic) adults, and Black South Dakotan adults are 13.5% less likely to work than White adults. Hispanic adults in South Dakota had the smallest employment gap when compared to Whites at 10.8%.

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Thursday, 27 April 2017 00:00

Construction Leads SD Job Growth in 2016

In 2016, South Dakota the total number of nonfarm jobs increased by 1.0 percent, according to a release from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Revenue. An additional 4,400 nonfarm jobs were added in 2016 for a total of 432,700 jobs.

The fastest growing sectors included mining, logging and construction; professional and business services; and educational and health services. Educational and health services added the greatest number of jobs in 2016 with 1,300 jobs, reflecting 1.8 percent increase. However, the largest percentage increase was in the mining, logging and construction sector, which grew 2.9 percent and accounted for 700 jobs. Sectors with increases in jobs can be viewed below: 

Industry 2015 Annual Average 2016 Annual Average Actual Change Percent Change
Mining, Logging and Construction 23,100 23,800 700 2.9%
Professional and Business Services 30,600 31,300 700 2.2%
Educational and Health Services 69,100 70,400 1,300 1.8%
Retail Trade 52,900 53,800 900 1.7%
Leisure and Hospitality 46,200 46,800 600 1.3%
Other Services (Excluding Public Administration) 15,900 16,100 200 1.2%
Government 77,800 78,700 900 1.1%

While substantial growth occurred in the construction industry, declines occurred in the manufacturing, information, and financial activities sectors. In 2016, the manufacturing sector lost 600 jobs, reflecting a 1.4 percent decline. Jobs in the information sector declined by 1.7 percent, with a loss 100 positions. Financial activities lost 400 jobs, a 1.4 percent decline in 2016.

There were many differences in jobs between the Rapid City and Sioux Falls metropolitan areas. While construction jobs increased by 3.7 percent in the Sioux Falls metro area, Rapid City only experienced a 2.0 percent growth in this sector. The Rapid City metro area saw a 3.6 percent decrease in manufacturing, while the Sioux Falls metro area’s manufacturing sector dropped by 0.7 percent. Although the decline in manufacturing in the Rapid City metro area was significant, it was the only sector to experience a decline in the metro area. Conversely, several sectors in Sioux Falls suffered job losses. The top and bottom three industries for both metro areas can be viewed in the charts below:

Sioux Falls Metro Area Nonfarm Jobs (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

Industry 2015 Annual Average 2016 Annual Average Actual Change Percent Change
Other Services (Excluding Public Administration) 4,900 5,100 200 3.9%
Mining, Logging and Construction 7,900 8,200 300 3.7%
Leisure and Hospitality 14,600 15,100 500 3.3%
Information 2,700 2,600 -100 -3.8%
Financial Activities 16,200 15,800 -400 -2.5%
Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities 5,600 5,500 -100 -1.8

Rapid City Metro Area Nonfarm Jobs (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

Industry 2015 Annual Average 2016 Annual Average Actual Change Percent Change
Other Services (Excluding Public Administration) 4,900 5,100 200 3.9%
Mining, Logging and Construction 7,900 8,200 300 3.7%
Leisure and Hospitality 14,600 15,100 500 3.3%
Information 2,700 2,600 -100 -3.8%
Financial Activities 16,200 15,800 -400 -2.5%
Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities 5,600 5,500 -100 -1.8%





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The employment gap between American Indian and white South Dakotans is the largest in the nation, according to recently released U.S. Census data. An average of 47.5 percent of the state’s 43,320 American Indian residents were at work from 2011-2015 compared to 80.2 percent of the total 356,098 white South Dakotans. This employment gap is largely related to the lack of opportunities for employment and training on South Dakota’s reservations.

Unemployed and underemployed individuals offer a potential source of workers for employers in South Dakota, but more will need to be done to match training opportunities that exist in labor needs. According to a report by the National Congress of American Indians, partnerships with government entities and academic institutions can offer ample opportunities for workforce training.

Several reservation counties within the state are struggling to hire teachers for language arts, mathematics, science, physical education, and other subject areas. Additionally, South Dakota’s rural counties are facing a shortage of mental health and primary care professionals. A majority of South Dakota’s counties are medically underserved.

Other states with significant American Indian populations had substantially lower employment gaps. Oklahoma had the lowest wage gap between Native and Non-Native populations in the nation at 8.6 percent, followed by No 2. Texas, also at 8.6 percent. California ranked 18th nationally at 12.4 percent with Arizona placing No. 42 at 20.3 percent.

South Dakota’s neighboring states also had substantial employment gaps. Iowa had the lowest employment gap regionally at 17.7 percent, while Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota, and North Dakota had gaps over 20 percent:

State Employment Gap Percentage Rank
Iowa 17.7% 35
 Wyoming   22.3% 43
Montana 23.4% 45
Nebraska 26.3% 46
Minnesota 26.9%  47
North Dakota 27.7% 48
South Dakota 34.4% 50



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South Dakotan eighth graders outperformed students nationally in reading and math, while fourth graders in South Dakota held steady with national scores in both subjects, according to scores from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. However, American Indian and low-income students continued to score lower than white students in both reading and math.  

In 2015, 43 percent of fourth graders received proficient scores in reading—one percentage point ahead of national scores. For math, fourth graders tied with national proficiency scores at 33 percent.

South Dakotan eighth graders outperformed students nationally in math with 44 percent achieving proficient scores compared to 38 percent across the nation. Reading scores for eighth graders in the Rushmore State were three percent higher than the national rate, at 45 percent.

While South Dakota students performed well compared to national results, achievement gaps between American Indian and white students in the state continue to persist. The largest discrepancy was in fourth grade math test scores, in which 33 percent more white students were proficient than American Indian students.

Percentage of Students Receiving Proficient Scores

  Fourth Grade Reading Fourth Grade Math Eighth Grade Reading Eighth Grade Math
American Indian 11 14 16 11
White 41 47 38 39
Percentage Difference 30 33 22 28







Similar results were seen in Montana and North Dakota—states that also have large American Indian populations. Only 11 percent of American Indian fourth graders in Montana received proficient math scores compared to 46 percent of white fourth graders in the state. In North Dakota, 17 percent of American Indian fourth graders were proficient in math, compared to 50 percent of white North Dakota fourth graders.

Students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program—used to indicate low family income—received lower scores than those who were ineligible for the program. Forty-two percent of the Rushmore State’s eighth graders who were ineligible for the program received proficient math scores, while just 19 percent of program-eligible eighth grade students received proficient scores. Similarly, 25 percent of eligible fourth grade students were proficient in math, while 51 percent of fourth graders who were ineligible for the program received proficient math scores. 

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Wednesday, 03 August 2016 00:00

#SDbythenumbers: The South Dakota Workforce

The first installment of the #SDbythenumbers series is ready for your enjoyment! Impress your friends and coworkers after learning smart-sounding data from our sleek infographics. Further your education by scrolling to the end of the page and clicking the text links to dive deeper into the data at hand. This week’s installment focuses on the South Dakota workforce. 


  1. 27.8 percent of SD residents have a Bachelor's degree or higher, which places us 29th among the other states.
  2. Jones County has the highest proportion of working adults at 87 percent.
  3. The number of SD high school dropouts is declining. In 2000, about 15 percent of students dropped out. As of 2014, that rate decreased to 8.3 percent.
  4. About 50 percent of South Dakota teens (ages 16-19) have a job.
  5. The highest proportion of working adults are between 45-54 years old. With 84.7 percent employment, they win by 1.0 percent over those ages 25-44.
  6. Of the metropolitan areas in South Dakota, Sioux Falls has the highest proportion of working adults at 82.6 percent. Sioux City and Rapid City both hover around 77 percent.
  7. In recent years, almost the same number of people drop out of high school as get a graduate or professional degree. In 2014, 8.3 percent of students dropped out of high school, while 7.8 percent obtained a graduate or professional degree. Interestingly enough, the number of people who obtain an associate’s degree also hovers around 10 percent.
  8. South Dakota's proportion of working adults is higher than the national average at just below 80 percent.
  9. The three South Dakota cities with the highest percentage of citizens with degrees:
    1. Brookings (48.5 percent)
    2. Vermillion (48.2 percent)
    3. Harrisburg (36.3 percent)
  10. The proportion of working adults in SD is highest in metropolitan and micropolitan areas.
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The proportion of South Dakota's population age 65 and older has been growing steadily since 2011 while the population of 5-17 and 18-64 year-olds has stabilized.  The 65+ population has increased by 13.46 percent  since 2011, compared to a 2.12 percent rise in the 0-4 age group. See the table below for growth rates since 2011 for all age groups. 

Age Group Growth from 2011-2015
0-4 2.12%
5-17 4.08%
18-64 2.21%
65+ 13.46%


The Spearfish micropolitan area is home to the largest proportion of residents age 65 and older, and consequently the highest retirement-to-working-age ratio.

The population of residents age 65 and older has dramatically increased in the Black Hills region compared to the state as a whole. The Black Hills 65+ population has grown by 21.63 percent since 2011 compared to a 13.46 percent increase for this age group statewide.

The increase in residents age 65 and older has augmented the retirement-to working-age ratio statewide which has grown by 2.6 percent since 2011.

This trend follows projections by demographers who say that the United States population of 65+ individuals will dramatically increase within the next 50 years due to the aging of the baby boomer generation. Read this article from the Population Reference Bureau for more in-depth information on this topic.


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White South Dakotans have substantially higher rates of employment than do their counterparts of color, with the gap being nearly double between Native American adults and whites, according to federal data

Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 79.8 percent of whites ages 16 to 64 had jobs, compared to 44.9 percent for Native Americans and 67.6 percent for other people of color. Overall during those years, an average of 76.1 percent of South Dakota adults were in the workforce. 

The federal government considers people to be “working” if they:

  1. did any work at all during the reference week as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession, worked on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers on a family farm or in a family business; or
  2. were “with a job but not at work,” that is, those who did not work during the reference week but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, industrial dispute, vacation or other personal reasons. 

Members of the military on active are not considered to be working, and those who volunteer only are not counted. 

Among South Dakota's nine American Indian reservations, the Lake Raverse reservation in northeast South Dakota recorded the most working adults while the Pine Ridge reservation in southern South Dakota recorded the least.

American Indian Reservations
  1. Lake Traverse -- 67.4 percent
  2. Yankton -- 63.1 percent
  3. Flandreau -- 59.2 percent
  4. Cheyenne River -- 53.6 percent
  5. Lower Brule -- 51.5 percent
  6. Crow Creek -- 50 percent
  7. Standing Rock -- 46.9 percent
  8. Rosebud -- 46.3 percent
  9. Pine Ridge -- 39.6 percent

On a county-by-county basis, rural areas where agriculture is a leading industry dominated the 10 counties with the most adults working, while counties home to American Indian reservations dominated the bottom 10. 

Top 10 South Dakota Counties
  1. Jones County -- 87 percent
  2. Stanley County -- 85.8 percent
  3. Lincoln County -- 84.2 percent
  4. Hyde County -- 82.8 percent
  5. McCook County -- 82.5 percent
  6. Codington County -- 82.4 percent
  7. Douglas County -- 81.8 percent
  8. Davison County -- 81.5 percent
  9. Miner County -- 81.5 percent
  10. Kingsbury County -- 81.4 percent
Bottom 10 South Dakota Counties 
  1. Oglala Lakota County -- 35.4 percent
  2. Corson County -- 46.6 percent
  3. Todd County -- 47.3 percent
  4. Ziebach County -- 52.9 percent
  5. Dewey County -- 53.8 percent
  6. Bennett County -- 54.3 percent
  7. Buffallo County -- 54.7 percent
  8. Bon Homme County -- 59.3 percent
  9. Mellette County -- 60.7 percent
  10. Jackson County -- 61 percent

Among the 11 metropolitan and micropolitan areas inside South Dakota's borders, the Watertown micropolitan area leads the pack while the Vermillion micropolitan area ranks the lowest. 

South Dakota Metropolitan and Micropolitan areas 
  1. Watertown micro area -- 82.4 percent
  2. Mitchell micro area -- 81.5 percent
  3. Pierre micro area -- 81.3 percent
  4. Sioux Falls metro area -- 80.9 percent
  5. Aberdeen micro area -- 80.9 percent
  6. Huron micro area -- 78.3 percent
  7. Rapid City metro area -- 75.1 percent
  8. Brookings micro area -- 75 percent
  9. Spearfish micro area -- 74.1 percent
  10. Yankton micro area -- 72.9 percent
  11. Vermillion micro area -- 65.2 percent

 Read more about South Dakota's workforce on the South Dakota Dashboard


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Monday, 08 February 2016 00:00

South Dakotans Getting More Educated

More South Dakotans have been going on to more education after high school as rates have risen steadily for those with bachelor's degrees and associate's degrees, according to federal data. Rates for those with advanced degrees and for those with some college but no degree have held roughly steady year to year.

At the same time, the proportion of South Dakotans without a high school diploma has been dropping, as has the rate of those who did not get further education beyond a high school diploma or GED. 

   Less than high school diploma  11.7%  8.3%
   High school diploma or GED   33.9%  30.6%
   Associate's degree   9.2%  11.3%
   Some college, no degree  20.3%  22%
   Bachelor's degree  17.6%  20%
   Professional/graduate degree  7.2%  7.8%

As the Rushmore State has improved its educational attainment, it continues to lag a few percentage points behind the nation as a whole. Rates have continued to increase across the United States. In 2014, 27.8 percent of South Dakotans had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 30.1 percent nationally. In 2006, those rates were 24.8 percent and 27 percent respectively.

In 2014, South Dakota ranked 29th nationally for the percentage of residents who have completed a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to No. 1 Massechusetts (41.2 percent) and No. 50 West Virginia (19.2 percent). The 29th rank is up from 34th for a rate of 26.6 percent in 2013.

When it comes to college degrees held by young adults, South Dakota has slipped behind the nation. In the years leading up to the Great Recession in 2008-2009, South Dakota exceeded the national rate for bachelor's degrees or higher among those age 25-34. Since the recession, that has reversed. In 2006, 30.3 percent of South Dakota's young adults held a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28.8 percent nationally. In 2014, South Dakota's rate was 30.6 percent compared to 33.5 percent for the nation as a whole. 

Nationally, South Dakota again ranks 29th for the percentage of young adults holding college degrees, compared to No. 1 Massechusetts (50.1 percent) and No. 50 New Mexico (21.9). 

Metropolitan vs. Micropolitan vs. Non-metropolitan 

South Dakotans who live in a metropolitan area continue to rank 10 percentage points higher than those living in non-metropolitan areas for having earned a bachelor's degree or higher degree. Those living in micropolitan areas continue to hold these degrees at nearly but not quite the rate of those in metropolitan areas. 

For the years 2010-2014, 29.6 percent of South Dakotans in metropolitan areas held these degrees compared to 28.6 percent for micropolitan areas and 19.5 percent for non-metro areas. For the years 2005-2009, those rates were 27.5 percent, 26.9 percent and 17.5 percent respectively. In 2000, they were 24.5 percent, 24 percent and 15.1 percent respectively.

For bachelor's and advanced degrees, the Sioux Falls metro area continues to exceed the rate of the state as a whole and that of the Rapid City metro area. In 2014, the Sioux Falls metro area rate for bachelor's degree or higher was 32.6 percent compared to 27.8 percent for the state and 26.8 percent for the Rapid City metro area. 

Even higher rates are found in the Brookings and Vermillion micropolitan areas (homes to the state's two largest universities). For the years 2010-2014, the Brookings micropolitan area averaged a 41.4 percent rate for residents holding a bachelor's degree or higher, while the Vermillion micropolitan area averaged 43.1 percent. These rates are more than double the rates in the Huron and Watertown micropolitan areas. 

Educational Attainment and Demographics

In South Dakota, Asians are far more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have earned a bachelor's degree or higher. For the years 2010-204, Asians averaged a rate of 43.5 percent on this score, compared to 28.1 percent for whites, 21.6 percent for blacks, 15.9 percent for Hispanics and 10.7 percent for Native Americans. 

Women have overtaken men for educational attainment in South Dakota, and they continued to widen the gap in 2014. In 2000, 20.8 percent of women had earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 22.3 percent for men. By 2006, 25.5 percent of women held college degrees compared to 24.2 percent of men. In 2014, the rate was 29.3 percent for women and 26.2 percent for men. 




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