Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

April 2020

Measuring COVID-19’s Impact on South Dakota’s Labor Market

Like our cooperative federal agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LMIC continues to monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. We are committed to producing and distributing gold-standard data while also keeping South Dakota employers, the public and our staff safe. While state government offices have been closed through executive order to prevent the spread of the virus, LMIC staff, like employees of many agencies, have been working remotely to ensure the continuation of valuable workforce data series.

Below we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about the data we anticipate will help statistically measure COVID’s effect on South Dakota’s workforce.

What data are most likely to first show COVID-19’s impacts?

The labor force estimates (including employment and unemployment levels plus unemployment rates) and nonfarm worker levels by industry are both considered leading economic indicators. In this unprecedented situation, it is hard to predict the impact on workforce data. Even BLS, on a COVID-related Q & A page on their website, states they are not making predictions about labor market data. But we anticipate the labor force and nonfarm worker data series will first indicate the economic impact of the virus. See below for more information about each of these indicators.

Over the longer term, quarterly employment and wage data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program will also provide helpful data for studying the pandemic’s impact on different industries.

When will COVID-19’s economic impacts first be indicated in the data?

Patience, please. As has been the case with so many other facets of surviving COVID-19, patience will be needed for data showing the pandemic’s impacts on South Dakota’s labor economics. Even the leading economic indicators mentioned above involve time lags inherent in collecting and processing labor market data.

Both labor force and nonfarm worker data sets use a reference week including the 12th of the month. In other words, the estimates for the month are based on employment status during the week of the 12th.

We anticipate by the time April estimates are published, those comparisons will begin providing some indication of COVID’s impact on South Dakota employment levels. While many employers have been taking precautionary measures and reducing workers’ hours since the pandemic began (some as early as the week of March 12), we believe the impact on employment levels of actions such as closures and layoffs may not be reflected until the week of April 12.

Keep in mind, if employees receive pay for any portion of the pay period including the 12th of the month, they are counted as employed in the estimates for that month. In other words, workers on reduced work schedules or paid leave are still counted as employed. Data on Reemployment Assistance (unemployment insurance) claims also indicate heightened layoff activity began after the March 12 reference week.

When will the data be published?

Releases of data which we anticipate will reflect the impacts of the pandemic will be as follows.

April 2020 Data

  • National data — May 8
  • Statewide data for South Dakota — May 21
  • Data for areas within South Dakota — May 29

View more data release dates.

How is COVID-19 affecting LMIC data collection?

The statistical surveys we conduct in cooperation with BLS use a wide variety of collection methods. Nearly all the data, particularly from employers, are collected online, through mail and telephone interviews. We are currently not doing any in-person data collection, which is rare anyway.

Will future data releases be delayed?

With one exception (of seasonally adjusted metro area data), LMIC and BLS plan to release all data on our normal schedule as announced on the LMIC Release Dates web page and the BLS release calendar.

What may impact data continuing to be available?

As always, the cooperation of South Dakota employers who voluntarily participate in our statistical surveys is pivotal; we simply could not provide the data we do without them. As long as we can continue relying on excellent cooperation from the state’s employers and they continue providing employment data when called upon, we hope to provide workforce data as scheduled.

Is there any data available right now to measure the impact?

We are closely monitoring, on a daily basis, two “real time” data indicators of labor market activity:

  • Number of job openings advertised online.
  • Number of candidates with active resumes in the workforce system.

Both data elements are available in our virtual labor market data system for the prior day. The virtual system is available from this website; use the second link in the left-hand menu. Contact us for assistance as needed.

What do labor force data measure?

Labor force data include four measures:

  • Number of individuals employed.
  • Number of unemployed individuals.
  • Labor force (employment + unemployed).
  • Unemployment rate (unemployed / labor force).

Measures of unemployment provide a vital indicator of the economy, since they show how many people are without a job but actively seeking work. Employment levels indicate growth and contractions in the economy.

Labor force data are provided through the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program, which LMIC operates in South Dakota in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. See the table of South Dakota and county labor force data in the Labor Bulletin as an example of the data available.

For more information, visit our Technical Notes page or see frequently asked questions about LAUS on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

What do nonfarm worker levels measure?

Nonfarm worker levels indicate important employment trends by industry. The data are provided through an employer survey, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program. LMIC oversees the program in South Dakota, in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nonfarm worker data refer to persons on establishment payrolls who receive pay for any part of the pay period which includes the 12th of the month. Persons are counted at their places of work rather than at their places of residence; those appearing on more than one payroll are counted on each payroll. As the title implies, agricultural industry workers are not included. In addition, nonfarm self-employed and unpaid workers are also excluded from the nonfarm wage and salaried worker counts.

As an example, see the table of South Dakota nonfarm worker levels in the Labor Bulletin. For more information, visit our Technical Notes page or learn more on the BLS website.

What other data does LMIC provide?

To learn more about the wide variety of workforce data LMIC has available, explore this website. The major data sets available are included in our left-hand menu. There are overviews of the major statistical programs conducted in cooperation with BLS. Or contact us with your specific data needs; we’re here to help, albeit remotely for now.

Stay safe and healthy, South Dakota.