SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As the holiday season approaches, many businesses across South Dakota are desperate for more workers. 

South Dakota’s unemployment is at 2.2% with roughly 10,000 available workers unemployed, according to data from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. There’s also more than 28,000 job openings across the state.   

A new program by the South Dakota Retailers Association is aimed at finding more employees outside of the state. Starting Nov. 1, a new South Dakota employee at a SDRA-member retail, restaurant or other hospitality business can earn $1,000 in a cash bonus.  

“We know that workforce is the number one limiting factor for economic development in South Dakota,” SDRA Executive Director Nathan Sanderson told KELOLAND News. “We’ve all been around the state and we’ve seen the help wanted signs that are all over the place.” 

There are nearly 4,000 businesses part of the SDRA, you can view a directory on the organization’s website.

Across the state, Sanderson said restaurants are cutting back hours, limiting menu items and not operating as much as they’d like to. He also emphasized many businesses are already offering sign-on bonuses or other incentives for new workers. 

“There aren’t a whole lot of places to go and look in South Dakota to find more workforce,” Sanderson said. “We’re hoping to attract some folks outside of South Dakota to come work in a South Dakota business.” 

To be eligible for the SDRA workforce incentive, a new employee “must have lived outside of South Dakota immediately prior to starting work at a SDRA member-business. The new employee will also work an average of 30 hours per week for 90 days. 

“We’d certainly like it if they move to South Dakota as well, but that’s not a requirement of the program,” Sanderson said. “We know that businesses are gearing up for the holiday season and they’re to bring on workers. We hope this can be an added incentive.” 

Applications for the program will start on February 1, and Sanderson noted no state or federal funds are involved in the $1,000 incentive. 

“It’s entirely funded by the businesses that make up this retailer’s association,” Sanderson said. “It’s a program that we haven’t tried before, but we’re hoping it’s successful.”  

Sanderson said the workforce incentive plan will remain an option for SDRA business for an “indefinite” timetable. He said the program may be “ramped up” or “scaled back” depending on how successful it goes. 

While there are many industries looking for more workers, Sanderson said this gives the retail and hospitality industry and added boost. 

“As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of folks that are reassessing their relationship with work,” Sanderson said. “We certainly understand that transportation, childcare and a variety of other factors, an appropriate work-life balance, are important to individuals.”   

You can also find job openings on KELOLAND’s employment page.