Breaking down South Dakota’s record 29,000 job openings

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There’s never been more job openings in South Dakota than right now. 

Statewide, the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation (DLR) has more than 29,000 job listings. That’s an “all-time high” according to Dawn Dovre, a spokeswoman for the DLR. 

In the Sioux Falls Metro Statistical Area (MSA), there are 11,282 job openings listed, according to the SDWORKS database operated by the DLR. The same database lists only 765 currently available candidates, based on people with active resumes in the DLR’s system. The Sioux Falls MSA’s unemployment rate is lower than the state average at 2.4%.

Sara Garbe, manager for the DLR’s Sioux Falls office, said the 765 available candidates listed in the Sioux Falls MSA “could be widely inaccurate if people are job searching through other means.”

Garbe listed a variety of factors contributing to the high number of job openings, including more workers choosing to retire “earlier than initially intended,” youth in the workforce “at a low,” and multiple job holders not holding more than one job. 

“South Dakota has always been a state that has multiple job holders,” Garbe said. “If you have a full-time job, you may also have a part-time job that you work in the evenings. Just seeing trends after COVID, those seem to be the jobs that were impacted.” 

The main job openings in the Sioux Falls MSA are similar to the needs statewide — health care, retail and manufacturing are the top three industries looking for workers.

“Truck driving is right up there as well, or the transportation industry,” Garbe said. “That’s pretty on trend statewide and not just a Sioux Falls thing for the top occupations or industries in need.”  

You can view a breakdown of the top-20 job titles and the number of openings in the Sioux Falls MSA in the graph below.

The number of job openings fluctuates with different seasons, Garbe said. Some businesses already dealing with a workforce shortage expected more challenges once school started. 

Pandemic unemployment benefits expired nationwide in September, but many states, including South Dakota, ended offering pandemic-related benefits earlier. South Dakota stopped offering federal unemployment benefits Dec. 26, 2020.

The workforce shortage in Sioux Falls comes at the same time vacancy rates for rental properties are at all-time lows and the housing market remains busy with potential buyers.

Day care shortages are also contributing to the workforce shortage. There are more children of working parents who need child care than slots available.

Garbe said the DLR works hard to get young people into the workforce through job-shadowing programs at a young age so future employees “can learn what they want to do when they get older.” 

Also contributing to the high number of job openings are the college graduates leaving the state after graduation. State Senator and Augustana University Professor of Economics Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) told KELOLAND News one example of a recent Augustana graduate with a nursing degree taking a job in Minnesota.

The South Dakota Board of Regents tracks data showing individuals who attain a bachelor’s degrees or higher at SDBOR institutions and then leave the state following graduation. Among 2019 BOR graduates, 47% are not employed in South Dakota one-year after graduation. Between the years of 2015-2019, 75% of out-of-state students were not working in South Dakota one-year after graduation.

Garbe also noted the DLR’s UpSkill program, a collaboration with technical colleges in the state to train current workers into higher-skilled positions. She says the DLR is accustomed to hearing more from employers rather than potential employees.

“A lot are struggling,” Garbe said of employers. “We feel that for them. We try to listen to their needs and see what services we could provide that may help them.”


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