Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

September 2018

South Dakota Occupational Employment Projections to 2026

As mentioned in last month’s e-Labor Bulletin article, South Dakota’s overall employment is projected to increase by 6.8 percent during the 2016-2026 employment projections decade, adding just over 33,000 new jobs to the state’s economy. While that article focused on employment projections by industry (where people work), this article will focus on employment projections by occupation (what people do on the job). Specifically, it will explore the 10 occupations projected to show the fastest growth in South Dakota to 2026

South Dakota and the U.S. Projected Employment Snapshot from 2016-2026

U.S. occupational employment is projected to increase 7.4 percent (or about 0.7 percent annually) during the 2016-2026 decade, from 156.1 million jobs in 2016 to 167.6 million in 2026. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment at the national level is projected to increase in 647 detailed occupations and decline in 168 detailed occupations.

Comparatively, South Dakota’s occupational growth is projected to be just slightly slower than the nation for the 2016-2026 decade at 6.8 percent. The Labor Market Information Center (LMIC) released projections for 546 detailed occupations. Employment for 471 occupations is projected to increase or remain the same, while 75 occupations are projected to decline.

LMIC completed the 2016-2026 statewide projections using the nationally-adopted projections methodology, which allows for comparability of this data across states, as well as to the nation. This methodology incorporates historical time-series employment data as well as state and national economic trends and utilizes a variety of statistical models. It is important to note: a general assumption is made no major catastrophic events or natural disasters will significantly affect the economic activities of the occupations during the projecting period.

At a macro level, two factors affect employment change in an occupation:

  • Changes in industry employment. This is easy to understand. If an industry's employment grows or contracts, occupations within the industry will do the same.
  • Changes in the mix of occupations (commonly known as staffing pattern) in an industry. This factor is more complicated and requires more research and analysis. Research includes examining historical staffing pattern data and analyzing factors which may affect occupations within the given industry.

Some examples of micro level factors include but are not limited to demographics, technology, replacement of one product or service for another, outsourcing and organizational/work restructuring. Many of the occupations on South Dakota’s top 10 fastest growing list are growing due to one or more of these micro-factors.

  • Demographics. Demographic data refers to data which is statistically socio-economic in nature such as age of the population, race, income, education and employment, which represent specific geographic locations and are often associated with time. South Dakota’s demographics play a definite role in the state’s economic landscape.
  • Technology. Changes in technology, such as new machines or software, can affect the growth of an occupation. Technology can increase productivity which will lead to the need for fewer workers, or in some cases even eliminate the need for workers all together. However, on the flip-side, technology can bring with it the advent of new or emerging occupations, which creates new jobs. Very often, technology can cause both a decrease in one occupation while creating a demand for a different occupation within the same staffing pattern. An industry may expand or contract, or it may remain at the same employment level, but because of technological changes in the industry, the occupational composition can change significantly.
  • Replacement of one service or product for another. Changes in the need or preference for different services and/or products by consumers can also affect the growth of an occupation.
  • Organizational/work restructuring. A change in job duties which results in the same output but increases/decreases the utilization of some occupations relative to others within the same industry. These changes cause occupations to grow at different rates. Many times, organizational/work restructuring results in the consolidation of job duties.

South Dakota’s Major Occupational Groups
There are 22 major occupational groups. All South Dakota’s major occupational groups are expected to add jobs over the projections decade. Fifteen of these groups are projected to show growth faster than the state average.

South Dakota’s healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (12.2 percent) and healthcare support occupations (9.2 percent) are projected to be among the fastest growing occupational groups during the 2016-2026 projections decade. When combined these two major groups account for half of the top 10 fastest growing occupations in South Dakota, including the number one spot.

Factors such as the aging baby-boom population, longer life expectancies and growing rates of chronic conditions will drive continued demand for healthcare service occupations. Another reason healthcare services in South Dakota will see fast occupational growth is the influx of population, of which retirees are a large part.

According to Market Watch (a website which has become a leader in financial news and market data), South Dakota topped the list of states with the most inbound movers in 2016. (The statistics indicate a 23 percent increase in people moving into South Dakota in the last five years.) The most common reason given for the move to South Dakota was for jobs. (Sixty percent of respondents said finding a job or relocating for a job was the reason they moved.) However, South Dakota also attracted those looking to live closer to family and those who either already retired or who were getting ready to retire.

According to an article released on April 9, 2018, by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), more retirees are calling smaller, less-populated states like South Dakota home. This article sites findings from the National Movers Study, which is an annual report of migration patterns in the United States. The article indicates while the larger warm-weather states still draw many retirees, the smaller, more sparsely populated states with a retirement-income-friendly tax environment are becoming more popular. With South Dakota’s population growth, occupations in health services will continue to grow to meet the demand for these services.

A Look at South Dakota’s Top 10 Fastest Growing Occupations for 2016-2026
Occupational employment is expected to increase by 6.8 percent in South Dakota between 2016 and 2026.

Fastest Growing Occupations
Fastest growing occupations are defined as occupations with the highest percent change of employment between 2016 and 2026. Keep in mind, fastest growing does not necessarily mean many new jobs. However, because of the role fastest growing occupations play in the occupational and economic landscape whether many or a few, occupations all are important and note-worthy.

South Dakota Top 10 Occupations Projected to be the Fastest Growing
Ranking Industry Title  SOC* Code 2016
2026 Workers Numeric Change Percent
1 Nurse Practitioners 29-1171 459 600 141 30.72%
2 Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary 25-1072 247 321 74 29.96%
3 Respiratory Therapists 29-1126 339 438 99 29.2%
4 Software Developers, Applications 15-1132 1,173 1,514 341 29.07%
5 Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic 51-4012 54 69 15 27.78%
6 Information Security Analysts 15-1122 212 270 58 27.36%
7 Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary 25-1071 136 173 37 27.21%
8 Physician Assistants 29-1071 529 666 137 25.9%
9 Massage Therapists 31-9011 143 179 36 25.17%
10 Orthotists and Prosthetists 29-2091 31 38 7 22.58%
Data is preliminary and subject to revision.
*SOC Code - Standardized Occupational Classification System, 2010
Fastest Growing Occupations are defined as those occupations with the highest percent change of employment between 2016-2026.

Source: Labor Market Information Center, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, August 2018.

Nurse Practitioners
The nurse practitioner occupation is projected to be the fastest growing occupation in South Dakota for the 2016-2026 round of projections. This occupation is projected to boast a 30.7 percent change in employment. Demographics certainly play a part in the fast-paced change in employment for this occupation. More people and an older population require health care. In many situations nurse practitioners fit the bill perfectly. Because South Dakota is such a rural state, many nurse practitioners work in small towns, sometimes in remote locations. These workers are the first-line of defense in staving off everyday aliments, treating common injuries and broken bones. They are often the eyes and ears which detect more serious sicknesses and disease. These workers generally work at a satellite clinic or office for the larger, regional medical centers in the state. Using internet and satellite communications they serve their clients right where they are, most of the time. Many patients who used to travel great distances for medical treatment can now do most of their doctoring, even for serious illnesses, right in their own home town thanks, in part, to nurse practitioners.

The state’s larger and/or more specialized clinics also utilize nurse practitioners as well. These workers allow both doctors and patients to make the most of their medical visits. These workers handle the more run-of-the-mill appointments. They also perform initial patient consultation to collect patient information before they visit with the physician and/or specialist. These workers also perform medical check-ups on patients recovering from surgery, illnesses or injury. This allows both doctors and patients to have more meaningful and productive visits.

Many nursing home and elderly care facilities also have nurse practitioners on staff. By employing these workers, they can save their residents trips to the doctor and/or doctor visits for common illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
Coming in as the second fastest-growing occupation (at 30 percent) is post-secondary nursing instructors and teachers. Because of the high demand for health care workers, and especially nursing occupations, it should come as no surprise this occupation made the top 10 fastest growing occupations list. Remember, though registered nurses did not make the list of fastest growing occupations, it does not mean this occupation is not growing. The registered nurse occupation is a large occupation in South Dakota, so although this occupation is growing at a fast clip (twice as fast as the state average), because of the sheer number of workers this occupation, the percentage is not high enough to make the top 10 fastest growing occupations. But, because of the need to train new workers to enter nursing occupations, postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers are projected to grow rapidly from 2016-2026.

Respiratory Therapists
Number three on the list is another health-related occupation, respiratory therapists (29.2 percent employment change from 2016 to 2026). Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing for a variety of reasons ranging from chronic respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema to premature infants with under-developed lungs to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning or shock.

South Dakota is following the national trend of much faster than the average growth in this occupation. Continued growth of the middle-aged and elderly population is anticipated to lead to increased incidence of respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, which are lifelong disorders and permanently damage lungs and restrict lung function.

And finally, growth in this occupation is occurring because these therapists are increasingly found in more types of establishments. Just a few years ago most respiratory therapists worked in hospitals; today it is becoming common to find these workers in nursing homes and doctors’ offices and clinics. Not only is it more convenient for residents and patients, but it cuts down on hospital re-admissions, which lowers medical expenses for treatment.

Software Developers, Applications
Applications software developers are projected to grow 27.8 percent. Unlike the occupations we have just looked at, applications software developers work in a wide variety of industries. Growth of this occupation is primarily due to technological changes occurring in several industries. These workers develop the applications which allow people to do specific tasks on computers and other devices. In South Dakota, many applications software developers create custom software specific to either the industry or customer they are employed by. Some applications software developers create complex databases for organizations while others create programs for use on the internet or within a company’s intranet. Others may develop applications software for consumer electronics and other products such as cell phones and appliances. Still other applications software developers work for health and medical insurance and reinsurance carriers and employers in the financial industry to develop a variety of software applications for a variety of digital platforms. Some of these developers work on a contract basis and may enjoy living in South Dakota while programming for a client half way around the world.

Technology is here to stay and filtering into everyday life in ways few would have thought of just a few years ago. From door bells which allow you to see whom is at your door even when you aren’t home, to refrigerators which can create a grocery list you can view on your smartphone while at the store, and to television remotes to which you can quote a few lines from a show and it will find a channel with the show on, the need for applications software developers is all around us. And, because this occupation can be found in so many industries (including workers who are self-employed and work on a contract basis) and virtually in any location, this occupation is projected to see strong growth for a long time to come.

Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic
Metal and Plastic Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine Tool Programmers round off South Dakota’s top five fastest growing occupations at 27.8 percent. This is a small occupation, however, because it is relatively new it is significant to the economic landscape of South Dakota’s production industry. These workers develop computer programs to control the machining or processing of metal or plastic parts by automatic machine tools, equipment or systems. Though CNC machine tool operators have been around for a while those who create specific programs to perform specific tasks have not been as commonplace in South Dakota’s production industry. Most employers purchased machines with preloaded programming the CNC operator would set up and run. Now, companies are going one step further and hiring their own CNC machine tool programmers who write code which is specific for the product their company produces.

Many South Dakota manufacturers are adopting technologies such as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs. This industry restructuring to embrace new technologies will require the skills of CNC programmers rather than the machine setters, operators and tenders. Therefore, demand for manual machine tool operators and tenders is likely to be reduced by these new technologies, and conversely, demand for CNC machine programmers is expected to be strong in the 2016-2026 decade in South Dakota.

Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts work in a variety of industries to plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number and types of cyberattacks increase.

These analysts take the sixth spot in South Dakota’s fastest growing occupations and are closely mirroring the nation’s projected growth for this occupation. South Dakota is projecting growth of 27.4 percent and nationally information security analysts are projected to grow 28 percent.

Over the 2016-2026-decade demand for this occupation is expected to be very high. Cyberattacks have grown in frequency and the demand for managed security by these analysts will be required to come up with innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for networks.

Health Specialties Teachers, Post-Secondary
With South Dakota’s health care industry booming, post-secondary health specialties teachers are also growing much faster than the average at 27.2 percent. These instructors teach courses in fields such as dentistry, laboratory technology, medicine, pharmacy, public health, therapy and veterinary medicine. With the increased demand for these types of health workers, South Dakota’s schools of higher education will be meeting these demands by offering more training opportunities from 2016-2026. This trend is again closely mirroring the national trend where post-secondary health specialties teachers are projected to grow 26 percent during the same time.

Physician Assistants
Physician assistants provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician or a surgeon. They conduct complete physicals, provide treatment and counsel patients. They may, in some cases, prescribe medication. These workers must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants. The training they receive is the primary difference between physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Like nurse practitioners, physician assistants fill gaps in medical services physicians and/or surgeons are either too busy to complete or the demand for services is higher than the supply of physicians and surgeons. Physician assistants are projected to grow fast increasing by 25.9 percent from 2016 to 2026. The reasons for the fast growth in employment are mirroring nurse practitioners in South Dakota.

Massage Therapists
Massage therapists are projected to grow faster than the average in South Dakota, increasing at a clip of 25.2 percent from 2016-2026. These workers treat clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, help injuries heal, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation and aid in the overall wellness of their clients. The massage therapy occupation benefited from two things:

  1. State standards set to meet licensing and certification requirements for this occupation. Licensing requirements in South Dakota include not only passage of a national board exam, but applicants must also meet educational requirements and provide proof of liability or malpractice insurance.
  2. Scientific studies which validated the healing qualities touch and massage therapy can have on the overall wellbeing of a person.

The massage therapist occupation benefited from these two legitimizing events and has been growing in popularity since. One reason for the fast growth for massage therapists is the variety of industries they are expanding into. There was a time when massage therapy was viewed as a luxury only the rich could afford. These therapists were primarily self-employed and either traveled to client’s homes or had their own office space. Some massage therapists worked in spas. However, as the healing touch of massage therapists became more popular and scientific studies began tying massage therapy to some medical benefits for pain therapy and improvement of overall mental and physical wellness, some in the health industry have embraced massage therapy and have made these services part of a variety of treatment plans. It is becoming more commonplace to find massage therapists working in chiropractic clinics, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, specialty clinics and as part of the sports medicine team for a franchise and/or sports medicine clinic. Many nursing homes and other residents for the older population also offer this service. In addition, this occupation continues to be popular as a form of recreational relaxation; these workers can also be found in fitness centers, spas and high-end hotels. Some of these workers remain self-employed. In fact, some larger employers across South Dakota have begun contracting with massage therapists to come into their facilities and provide massages for workers as part of their benefits package and perks they offer to employees.

Orthotists and Prosthetists
Rounding off the top 10 fastest growing occupations in South Dakota are orthotists and prosthetists. This occupation is our fifth health-related occupation on the list, although a few of these workers may be employed in other industries such as retail trade. Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include orthopedic footwear, braces, artificial limbs and other medical or surgical devises.

South Dakota’s population increase and the age of the state’s residents will certainly play a large role in the growth of this occupation during the 2016-2026 projections round. Both vascular disease and uncontrolled diabetes can lead to limb loss, and both diseases are more common among older people. In addition, with today’s medical advancements, more traumatic injury patients are surviving, increasing the need for artificial limbs etc., which will increase the demand for orthotic and prosthetic devices and these healthcare specialists.

This occupation is relatively small in numbers in South Dakota but is projected to grow by 22.6 percent. If this occupation continues to follow the same trend as several other health services occupations in South Dakota, this occupation could continue to grow at a significate rate for decades to come.

Where to Find More Information on South Dakota Occupational Employment Projections for 2016-2026
The employment projections to 2026 recently completed for 546 detailed occupations by the LMIC are available through our virtual labor market data system. Please visit the LMIC website at\lmic and choose Employment Projections by Occupation for our menu page with links, helpful data and tips on using the virtual system.