The Sioux Falls unemployment rate plunged to pre-recession levels in July, down to three percent. But a little more than 4,000 people sill remain out of work. Many of them are the long-term unemployed who could end up dropping out of the work force altogether.
But some are retraining to meet the needs of in-demand fields.
Bruce Meyer of the uniform supply company, A & M Services, knows what a tight unemployment market feels like. He has a couple of openings and stopped by the Department of Labor to pick up the applications.
Meyer: My ad says this: "I need a friendly individual who's not afraid to get their hands dirty with a good driving record." Angela Kennecke: How hard is that to find?
Meyer: It's harder now than it used to be.
Only two people applied, and Meyer says the quality of workers available is poor with unemployment so low.
"Three people that have started in the last month--one that just didn't want to work; one that's working, but struggling and now I've got to replace," Meyer said.
"Some people don't have the right skills. Some people have other barriers to employment that can be very difficult to overcome," Greg Johnson with the South Dakota Department of Labor said.
Johnson says in the current job climate, everyone who wants to work should be able to find a job; but the truth is it can be tough for some to gain employment no matter what.
"These folks can become chronically unemployed or unemployed for a long time period and really have a tough time getting their foot in the door, opening that door and having the employer give them a chance if they have one barrier to employment," Johnson said.
There are many reasons people find themselves without a job from having a criminal background to having chronic health problems.
"I thought, 'Oh man, I'm never going to work again,' and I felt unemployable for a long time; that these things had set me back and what am I going to do? Look for disability now?" Joel Barker said.
Barker worked in commercial construction for 20 years when a series of unrelated health issues, including epilepsy made it impossible for him to continue.
"And what I was trained to do, I didn't have many options to do something else," Barker said.
So after maxing out his unemployment benefits in eight months, Barker found a retraining program through the Department of Labor. He's now attending classes at Southeast Technical Institute to become a nuclear medicine technologist.
"It definitely kind of saved me. I was lost, or feeling lost. I didn't know what to do. I was a little scared too, not knowing what my body could handle. Not knowing what was available to me to try and what was out there. Through that testing I was able to get a glimmer of hope to find something that would pay well and give me more of a passion I could go and do something that would help people," Barker said.
Johnson says anyone who can be retrained, especially in the health care field or information technology can find a job.
"Two year programs that can really put people in a good position to get a job in our community or in our state," Johnson said.
Barker, who once thought he could become one among the numbers of chronically unemployed, hopes he can serve as a good example to others who think they can't find work in another field.
"Learning these new skills; I'll definitely be employable. And I'm going to make more than I did previously. That's the exciting part," Barker said.
Some people blame extended federal unemployment benefits for people not getting work. Those are set to expire at the end of the year.