SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The unemployment rate for South Dakota continues to drop as the number of open jobs increases past 30,000.

A recent study from WalletHub found that South Dakota is among the least affected states by the current labor shortage but according to the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation (DLR), job openings continue to rise and are now at 30,203. That’s up from the 29,000 openings that KELOLAND reported in October of 2021.

South Dakota’s unemployment rate is currently at 2.5%, over a percent lower than the national rate at 3.6%.

DLR Secretary Marcia Hultman said that South Dakota’s low unemployment rate can be attributed to the state’s work ethic and Governor Kristi Noem’s “Open for Business” approach.

“With more job openings than job seekers and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, South Dakota businesses are encouraged to get creative to engage and develop those in our state who are disengaged from the workforce or have higher unemployment rates than average,” Hultman said in an email to KELOLAND News on Thursday.

One locally managed business did just that to combat the labor shortage.

Meagan Donovan is the director of operations for Blue Star Investments LLC which oversees 25 Anytime Fitness locations across eight states, including three locations in Sioux Falls. Donovan told KELOLAND News that the business was affected by the labor shortage in 2021 as they struggled to recruit and retain employees who were seeking employment elsewhere. The employee shortage within their business pushed the group to increase wages and benefits for their employees.

The approach worked.

“We have been staffed and when we have an opening, we have tons of applications,” Donovan said.

Donovan said that the company uses HireClick to post jobs across several platforms and in turn, has seen many qualified candidates apply for positions at the Sioux Falls locations. The health and wellness industry typically sees a high turnover for personal trainers, Donovan said, but retention among management and other staff remains loyal.

Now, the business is returning to normal in terms of hiring.

“I feel like things have really leveled out to that pre-pandemic status,” Donovan said. “We have a normal amount of openings we see in a high-turnover industry and we’re filling them relatively quickly. We’re getting a normal amount of resumes again.”

Donovan added that the company invests in the growth of employees through professional development within. It’s another strategy that the DLR says can help employers attract and retain a workforce.

“There are a variety of ways an employer can provide training to current employees to increase skills and value within a company,” said Hultman. “Investing in current employees to increase skills makes it easier to backfill those entry-level positions within a company and creates loyalty from employees by showing your willingness to invest in them.”

South Dakota also ranks better than the national average when it comes to youth participation in the workforce. According to the DLR, South Dakotans between the age of 16 and 24-years-old participate in the workforce at a rate of 68% which is higher than the 55% at the national level.

South Dakotans also tend to hold multiple jobs at a higher rate of 7.2% compared to 4.6% nationally.

Since March of 2021, the majority of industries in South Dakota have seen gains but leisure and hospitality (10.5%), mining and logging (9.1%), and educational services (7.4%) saw the most growth in the past year.

More than one-third of South Dakota’s job openings are in Minnehaha County according to the DLR database. The top companies seeking employers right now are Sanford Health (1,387 openings), Sioux Falls School District (225 openings) and Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (179 openings).