South Dakota's low unemployment rate may be overshadowing a troublesome trend.
South Dakota currently sits in the top three among states with the best unemployment numbers in the nation. We're second only to North Dakota and Nebraska.
A new report out by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., titled: "The State of Working South Dakota" suggests the state's low unemployment rate makes the Rushmore state look better off financially than it really is. Kathy Callies with the Alliance for Economic Security says South Dakotans are working several minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. So while the state's unemployment numbers look good, it covers up the fact that wages are lower here. Callies shares the story of a young woman who inspired her.
"She said, 'We don't need more jobs. I have three jobs, Kathy. I need one good job with benefits so I can take care of my children and raise them to be all that they can be,'" Callies said.
According to the data, South Dakota's median wage is $14.54. That's more than a dollar lower than the median wage in our neighboring states.
Former South Dakota legislator and Sioux Falls resident Mary Glenski believes raising the minimum wage is a start and it would benefit families raising our future workforce.
"It's really hard for families, I think, where parents have to work two to three jobs. So nobody is home with the kids. And then people wonder why kids get into trouble," Glenski said.
The Economic Policy Institute refers to the last ten years as the "lost decade." Meaning, those making low and very low wages in our state are actually making less now than they did in 2000. On the contrary, very high wage earners in South Dakota not only didn't experience wage decreases, but actually experienced two decades of wage growth, making the gap between the rich and the poor even wider.
South Dakota is one of only five states and the District of Columbia that has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession.
However, the report points out that South Dakota still needs to create 15,600 additional jobs to return to the same levels of employment enjoyed prior to the recession.
If you’d like more details on the report you can log onto The State of Working America’s website for the full report.