Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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An Enchanting Encounter:

Even Santa Values Workforce Data

A Christmas story from the Labor Market Information Center by Lisa Cooper

Please note: This special Christmas story may be downloaded as a flipbook for those with Flashplayer.

t was a cold, wintry night. Even by South Dakota standards, it was nasty out. I tightly clutched my coat and scurried with my shopping bags in hand to get into the warmth of my house. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back with my limbs and bags askew around me.

I sat up slowly, shaking my head to clear it—and was mystified by the wonderland around me.

Christmas carols played, colorful lights twinkled everywhere, brightly dressed, pointed-ear characters hustled and bustled about, and every Christmas smell you could possibly imagine hung in the air.

Believe it or not, I’d landed smack dab in the middle of Santaland.

As soon as I could stand again, a couple of not-so-friendly elves questioned me. They wanted to know what I was doing in Santaland and how I got there.

I barely answered, “I don’t know!” when the next question was asked. “Who do you work for?” the shorter of the two elves blurted out, as he cocked his glasses and placed pen to paper.

“The Labor Market Information Center,” I managed to squeak out.

“The what?” he inquired.

I repeated my answer, adding, “It’s the statistical division of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation.”

“Oh,” he said, looking a little confused but maintaining his stern demeanor.

The taller elf asked, “Exactly what is it you do there? Do you shop at this market for slippers, baby dolls, Christmas tree garland or boxed Christmas cookies?”

When he mentioned the cookies, his nose wrinkled, his eye brows furrowed, and he looked nearly as scary as the short elf.

“No… I’m not a shopper for them. I was off work today to finish up some errands. It’s Christmas, you know,” I said, rather baffled.

That’s when I noticed the items I’d bought were scattered everywhere but in my bags.

As I was gathering my things, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a third elf had appeared. He was talking into a little ring on his finger. It looked like a tiny computer screen.

“Yes, sir, we have an invader,” he reported. “Yes, sir, I will bring her to headquarters at once.”

No sooner than he said that, I found myself standing in front of the big man himself, Santa Claus. Not only did Santa know who I was, but he knew where I worked. What he didn’t know was exactly what I do.

With no time to waste, he asked with haste for a better description of my job with the Labor Market Information Center.

Fighting an overwhelming urge to curtsey, I explained I work with a variety of economic data sets, one of the most popular with customers being occupational wage data.

Oh my, his face lit up, and he danced a little jig!

He said, “You mean you can tell me how much I should pay my elves?”

I respectfully said, “No sir. I can’t tell you how much to pay, but I can provide you South Dakota occupational wage rates. South Dakota employers often request this information to consider when determining employees raises or setting the wage for a new worker.”

Santa said, “I would like to see what my elves would earn if they worked in South Dakota. For that matter, I’d like to see what Mrs. Claus and I would get paid too.”

He then asked what details I’d need from him to provide South Dakota wage information.

I told him a list of job titles and descriptions and explained once I had his information, I would crosswalk the job titles to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. I’d then provide the SOC code, occupational title, description and wage estimates for the closest matches to the job titles on his list.

I pointed out I would need to return to my workshop (err, I mean my pod in the LMIC) to compile the data. He said not to worry, he would ensure I got back to LMIC.

I asked him if he had an email address to which I could send the data. He said, no; his inbox had long since exceeded the maximum number of messages.

I asked for his postal address, but he said he didn’t have time to wait.

After some discussion, we decided I would publish his list of occupations along with the corresponding SOC titles, descriptions and wages in the e-Labor Bulletin. He said he would have his elves watch for it.

Sometime during our conversation, a list magically appeared in my hand of job titles and descriptions of duties for the elves, Mrs. Claus and Santa.

After scanning the list, I inquired about several types of occupations I was surprised weren’t on the list. There were no educators or health care occupations and seemed to be no occupations related to handling social issues like aging.

Santa explained the elves, like Santaland, are magical. They know what they need to know from the time they come to be, needing no prior education to know how to do their jobs.

He went on to explain, each elf has his or her own unique skill set and innately knows how to do the work. He also told me nobody in Santaland ages. Nor do they get ill—not even the animals.

I told Santa it was indeed a magical place.

Poof! Just like that, I was at my desk in LMIC with the list of jobs titles and descriptions still in my hand. I set to work, compiling wage data for him like the examples below. You can see my full report to Santa in Adobe PDF format, including wages for all occupations held by:

Examples of Wages in Occupations Held by Elves
Santaland Job Titles Santaland Job Duties Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Occupation SOC Code SOC Description Average SD Wage
Logistical Coordinating Elves Plan and implement logistical plans to help Santa get all his deliveries fit into one night. Logisticians 13-1081 Analyze and coordinate the ongoing logistical functions of a firm or organization. Responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, including acquisition, distribution, internal allocation, delivery, and final disposal of resources. Excludes “Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers” (11-3071) and “Project Management Specialists” (13-1082). $35.55
Information Security Elves Specializing in Information Technology Ensure the cyber security of highly confidential personal information people share in correspondence with Santa. Ensure security of gift inventions until patents and copyrights are approved. Also ensure the many records and files on Santaland computer systems are  secure. Information Security Analysts 15-1122 Plan, implement, upgrade, or monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information. Assess system vulnerabilities for security risks and propose and implement risk mitigation strategies. May ensure appropriate security controls are in place that will safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure. May respond to computer security breaches and viruses. Excludes “Computer Network Architects” (15-1241). $44.05
Naughty List Criminal Investigators Monitor everyone's acts and deeds, and investigate reports of bad behavior. Keep Santa apprised as needed for his maintenance of the naughty or nice list.  Private Detectives and Investigators 33-9021 Detect occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment, or seek, examine, and compile information for client. $18.77
Mail Sorters/Processors Ensure all outgoing correspondence, such as Santa's replies, are prepared for shipping and all incoming correspondence, such as gift wish lists, are routed to the correct department.   Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal Service  43-9051 Prepare incoming and outgoing mail for distribution. Time-stamp, open, read, sort, and route incoming mail; and address, seal, stamp, fold, stuff, and affix postage to outgoing mail or packages. Duties may also include keeping necessary records and completed forms. $13.10
Roofers Travel with Santa on Christmas Eve, repairing any damage which may occur during landings. Roofers 47-2181 Cover roofs of structures with shingles, slate, asphalt, aluminum, wood, and related materials. May spray roofs, sidings, and walls with material to bind, seal, insulate, or soundproof sections of structures. $14.81
Santa's Bakers Bake sweet treats for Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves to eat.  Also make confectionary treats Santa puts in stockings on Christmas Eve. Baker 51-3011 Mix and bake ingredients according to recipes to produce breads, rolls, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, or other baked goods. Include pastry chefs in restaurants and hotels with "Chefs and Head Cooks" (35-1011). $12.73
Santa's Welders Join together metal components in a variety of settings. May weld pipes used in Santaland buildings, may weld tools and machines, or repair the metal structure of Santa's sleigh. Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers 51-4121 Use hand-welding, flame-cutting, hand soldering, or brazing equipment to weld or join metal components or to fill holes, indentations, or seams of fabricated metal products. $18.47
Santa's Carpenters Build wooden gifts such as doll and play houses, hobby horses, rocking chairs, etc. Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters 51-7011 Cut, shape, and assemble wooden articles or set up and operate a variety of woodworking machines, such as power saws, jointers, and mortisers to surface, cut, or shape lumber or to fabricate parts for wood products. Excludes “Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders” (51-7040). $15.24
Gift Wrappers and Hand Packing Elves Wrap all of the gifts from Santa to good boys and girls; prepare packages for Santa's sleigh.  Packers and Packagers, Hand 53-7064 Pack or package by hand a wide variety of products and materials. $12.13


To learn more about *SOC Codes and *SOC Occupational Descriptions, see Occupational Descriptions in SOC Code Order, 2010.

Please note some Santaland job titles may fall into more than one SOC occupation. These occupations have been duplicated within the table and denoted with an *.

The mean wage is also known as the average wage. The mean wage is calculated by dividing the estimated total wages for an occupation by the number of workers in that occupation. Percentile wages represent the percentage of an occupation's workers who earn less than or equal to that wage. The median wage is the 50th percentile: 50% earn less than or equal to this amount; 50% earn more.

For more information on percentile wages, see Occupational Wages - Technical Notes

If the cell is blank, the data has been suppressed because there is a risk of employer identification. Per federal regulations under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA), LMIC cannot provide this confidential data. 

Source: Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), Labor Market Information Center, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. Compiled using the Local Employment and Wage Information System (LEWIS) August 2019.

Uffda, my head hurts! As I open my eyes, I feel snow falling on my face. My head is spinning, and I am more than a bit confused.

I look around, and my bags lay beside me. Nothing seems to have fallen out, except the box of Christmas cookies I had bought.

On wobbly legs, I get up and shake off the snow. I enter my house to ponder what had happened. It seemed so real … but it couldn’t be, could it?

I shake my head.

I then take my phone out of my purse and pull up the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation homepage. I click on the Labor Market Information Center icon and then the e-Labor Bulletin icon.

I must figure this out. I know I didn’t create any tables before I left work for my time off over the holiday.

But there they are, three lists – just like Santa and I had discussed. One list each for the elves, Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus himself.

So, did what I remember actually take place? Or, did I publish the information as a fun and light read for our customers in the spirit of the Christmas season?

My mind races as fast as things happened in Santaland. I shake my head to clear it once again.

“Enough of this,” I tell myself. Santa will be here soon, and I need to figure out what kind of treat to leave for him since I can’t find the cookies I bought.

The End