Mixed Signals

One of the big issues in this years governors race has to do with the employment picture in South Dakota. A story in today’s Argus documents the latest findings released by the federal government that at first glance seems to back up Governor Rounds’ claim of employment prosperity in the state.

Highlights include a drop in the unemployment rate from 3.9 percent to 3 percent while the state added 9,600 new jobs which translates into a growth rate over 1 percent higher than the national average. If the report stopped there, the governor’s claims would have been dead on when he says his policies have help our employment picture.

Unfortunately the report doesn’t end there and here is where the real employment news comes into play. Average salaries were up 2.1 percent, far below the 5.8 percent that was the national average while high wage sectors actually saw lower wages during the last 12 months.

“For South Dakota, the problem isn’t so much unemployment, but the problem continues to be low wages,” said Reynold Nesiba, an economist at Augustana College. “It is surprising to me how little growth there has been in South Dakota.”

The article then wonders if companies are having a hard time finding employees during this current period of low unemployment and the answer they discovered is that even with the low number people in the available job pool, companies outside of the retail sector are not having a difficult time finding people because of the large number of underemployed whom are more than happy to move on to new jobs.

So the next time Governor Rounds starts crowing about the states employment picture, ask him how many of those jobs are actually making a living wage?

As an aside to this story, the author Jonathan Ellis, talked to an HR representative from Premier Bankcard who currently employs over 2800 people in South Dakota. The rep. from the company said they have had no problem filling the 1000 positions yearly that they need, 1000 positions? Does anyone think that the company might have some issues if they need to replace 1/3 of their workforce every year?

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