South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has received plenty of grief throughout the coronavirus pandemic from Democrats and the media in response to her refusal to impose harsh lockdowns on the state’s populace, such as business closures, stay-at-home orders, or mandatory mask-wearing.
Yet, while many of the states that imposed such restrictions on the citizenry continue to suffer significant economic troubles, South Dakota is actually doing better economically, specifically in terms of unemployment, than it was prior to the start of the pandemic, the governor announced on Friday.
Fewer unemployed workers
Noem announced the good economic news Friday on Twitter, writing, “NEWS: South Dakota’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.0% in December. That’s lower than it was BEFORE the pandemic.”
The governor’s announcement was backed up by a release from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s Labor Market Information Center that provided the numbers in support of her assertion, the Washington Examiner reported.
According to that release, as of December 2020, South Dakota had roughly 14,000 unemployed workers out of a labor force estimated at 461,300 potential workers, for an unemployment rate of about 3.0 percent.
In December 2019, the state had 15,800 workers out of a workforce that was 465,800 strong, for an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.
The release also compared South Dakota’s unemployment numbers with that of the United States overall, and the difference was remarkable.
As of December 2020, the U.S. had about 10.7 million workers drawing unemployment out of a labor force sized around 160.6 million workers, for an unemployment rate of approximately 6.7 percent — more than twice as high as South Dakota.
Back in December 2019, however, prior to the arrival of the pandemic and while former President Donald Trump’s economic policies were in full effect — and numerous states and businesses weren’t locked down interminably — there were about 5.8 million unemployed workers out of a labor force estimated to be 164.6 million, meaning the unemployment rate was around 3.6 percent — just slightly above where South Dakota was at that point in time.
“Many in the media criticized this approach, labeling me ill-informed, a ‘denier,’ and reckless,” Noem said to reporters in December about her handling of the pandemic, according to the Examiner. “Some have even asserted that South Dakota is ‘as bad as it gets anywhere in the world’ when it comes to COVID-19, a demonstrably false statement.”
Indeed, and while Noem’s South Dakota has seen its share of COVID-19 infections and deaths, the state appears to be avoiding some of the economic devastation that has accompanied the pandemic in so many other places.
California and New York should take some notes.