Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

Font Size: A A A

South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

September 2020

South Dakota Occupational Employment Projections to 2028

As mentioned in last month’s e-Labor Bulletin article, South Dakota’s overall employment is projected to increase by 7.1% during the 2018-2028 employment projections decade, adding just over 34,600 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 2028.

South Dakota and the U.S. Projected Employment Snapshot for 2018-2028

U.S. occupational employment is projected to increase 5.2% (or about 0.5% annually) during the 2018-2028 decade, from 161 million jobs in 2018 to 169.4 million in 2028. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment at the national level is projected to increase or remain the same in 618 detailed occupations and decline in 192 detailed occupations.
Comparatively, South Dakota’s occupational growth is projected to be faster than the nation for the 2018-2028 decade at 7.1%. The Labor Market Information Center (LMIC) released projections for 531 detailed occupations. Employment for 480 occupations is projected to increase or remain the same, while 51 occupations are projected to decline.

LMIC completed the 2018-2028 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 event or natural disaster will significantly affect the economic activities of the occupations during the projections period. An example of a catastrophic event would be the COVID-19 pandemic, which rocked the United States and the world in 2020. However, even though projections would not and could not account for the ramification of this pandemic, it is important to remember when reading this article this event had not taken place by 2018. This employment projections round has a base year of 2018; in other words, 2018 employment estimates were used when modeling employment to 2028. Whether or not the pandemic of 2020 will significantly impact future rounds of projections will depend on how long the downturn in the economy lasts and how well state and national labor markets recover from its affects. Whether or not future projections series will be significantly impacted by the 2020 pandemic remains unclear at this time.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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. The data vary by geographic location and often over 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 usually leads 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 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 can result 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 of South Dakota’s major occupational groups are expected to add jobs over the projected decade. Fourteen of these groups are projected to show growth faster than the state average.

South Dakota’s computer and mathematical occupations (12.3%), personal care and service occupations (11.6%) and health care practitioners and technical occupations (11.3%) are projected to be among some of the fastest growing occupational groups during the 2018-2028 projections decade. When combined these three major groups account for half of the top 10 fastest growing occupations in South Dakota, including the number one spot.

Factors such as the increased need by individuals and businesses for information security and technology and an aging population, longer life expectancies and growing rates of chronic conditions will continue to be driving forces in the demand for computer technology and health related occupations. Another reason health care services in South Dakota will continue to see fast occupational growth is the influx of population. According to an article by United Van Lines regarding the top 10 places to move in 2018, South Dakota tied with North Carolina for 8th and 9th position (at just over 57%). (For more information, see the 2018 United Van Lines National Movers Study.)

According to Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications at United Van Lines, the 42nd annual United Van Lines study not only accurately reflects where Americans and moving to and from, but also the reasons why. Unlike its neighboring states (which were either balanced or experienced medium outbound population during 2018), South Dakota experienced a medium inbound population. The statistics indicate 57% of those moving into to South Dakota moved here because they were relocating because of or looking for a job. Other groups relocating to South Dakota were those looking to or who already had retired (20%), those looking to live closer to family (17%) and those who moved here for the lifestyle (11%).

According to an article 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 2018-2028

Occupational employment is expected to increase by 7.1% in South Dakota between 2018 and 2028. The table below features the 10 occupations projected to grow the fastest. The narrative following the table explores the reasons for the predicted growth.

Fastest growing occupations are defined as occupations with the highest percent change of employment between 2018 and 2028. 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 Occupational Employment Projections 2018-2028
Top Ten in Percent Growth
Rank Occupation 2018
1 Information Security Analysts               253 342 89 35.2%
2 Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic 77 102 25 32.5%
3 Respiratory Therapists 336 430 94 28.0%
4 Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary 245 312 67 27.3%
5 Nurse Practitioners 549 697 148 27.0%
6 Personal Care Aides 2,981 3,783 802 26.9%
7 Physician Assistants 544 685 141 25.9%
8 Software Developers, Applications 1,041 1,300 259 24.9%
9 Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary 161 201 40 24.8%
10 Occupational Therapy Assistants 119 147 28 23.5%
Data is preliminary and subject to revision.
Fastest growing occupations are defined as those occupations with the highest percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028.
Source: Labor Market Information Center, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, July 2020.

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 and skills of hackers continue to increase.

These analysts take the number one spot in South Dakota’s fastest growing occupations list. This projected growth is outpacing the nation’s projected growth for this occupation. South Dakota is projecting growth of 35%, and nationally information security analysts are projected to grow by 32%.

Over the 2018-2028 decade, demand for this occupation is expected to be very high. As cyberattacks have grown in frequency, the demand for managed security has increased. These analysts will be depended upon for innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for networks.

Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic

Metal and Plastic Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine Tool Programmers moved from its respectable fifth place in the 2016-2026 projections to second place in the 2018-2028 round, with a growth rate of 32%. 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 which control the machining or processing of metal or plastic parts by automatic machine tools, equipment or systems. Although CNC machine tool operators have been around for a while, CNC machine tool programmers are fairly new to production. South Dakota employers are finding value in staffing workers who are capable of writing CNC programs which are specific to the products their company produces. Making changes on the fly is perhaps one of the biggest advantages companies who employ these workers have. There is less down time, because employers can modify products in a more efficient way and are therefore able to produce unique products for their clients. In addition, in the production industry, down time for machines not working as they should equates to lost money. If the CNC machine’s preloaded program fails, having a programmer on staff is invaluable. There is generally less down time, because these programmers either know how to correct the issue or can troubleshoot the issues with programmers from the vendor company in an expediate fashion, saving the company precious time.

Finally, some companies have found they can recoup part of the cost of  these positions by subcontracting to develop plastic and metal parts for other producers. Many producers, some of which are too small to have a CNC programmer on staff, or are doing a special one-time product run, will sub-contract with these companies to either have the their CNCs set up to do a special run, or in some cases,   have the company produce the unique part.
South Dakota’s production industry is restructuring to embrace new technologies which will require the skills of CNC programmers rather than 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 2018-2028 decade in South Dakota.

Respiratory Therapists

Health related occupations take up several of the top 10 fastest growing occupational slots in South Dakota. The first of the health-related occupations is respiratory therapists, number three on the list. Respiratory therapists are expected to grow at four times the state rate for all occupations at 28% from 2018 to 2028. 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 readmissions, which lowers medical expenses for treatment.

Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

Although not found in the health care industry, postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers have definite ties to the strong occupational growth occurring in health care. This occupation is the fourth fastest-growing occupation at 27%. 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, although 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 (13%), because of the sheer number of workers in 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 2018-2028.

Nurse Practitioners

Rounding off the top five fastest growing list is the nurse practitioner occupation, boasting a 27% change in employment. Demographics certainly play a part in the fast-paced growth of this occupation. Nationally, the aging population is playing a huge role. While demographics certainly plays a part in the growth of this occupation in South Dakota, just as important as aging of the population is the size of the population in South Dakota. Because it is such a rural state, nurse practitioners are pivotal to services provided.

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 hometown thanks, in part, to nurse practitioners. Some of these workers even take their services right to their patients. The elderly, shut-ins and those recovering from serious illnesses, injuries or operations often have nobody to take them to follow-up or even regular checkups. This is where the traveling nurse practitioners come in. Some of these workers travel great distances to see and treat their patients.

Practitioners who work in the state’s larger and/or more specialized clinics also provide vital services. These workers allow both doctors and patients to make the most of their medical visits by handling the more run-of-the-mill appointments. They also perform initial patient consultation and perform medical check-ups on patients recovering from surgery, illnesses or injury. This frees up time of physicians, specialists and surgeon so they can deal with the more serious cases requiring their attention.

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.

Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides, also called care givers or personal attendants, generally provide non-medical services such as cleaning, cooking, shopping, driving their clients to appointments and in general being companions to people with disabilities, chronic illnesses or the elderly. As the baby boom generation continues to age, the need for these workers will increase. Personal care aides are often the difference between individuals remaining in their home or having to go to nursing homes. Not only is it more economical to pay for the services of a personal care aid than to live in a nursing home, but most generally people prefer to remain in their homes; so it is not surprising the demand for these workers is strong. Nationally, personal care aides are growing at a faster pace (36%) than South Dakota. However, this occupation came in as the sixth fastest growing occupations in South Dakota at (27%).

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants provide health care 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 assistant employment is  projected to grow fast, increasing by 26% from 2018 to 2028. The reasons for the fast growth in employment are mirroring nurse practitioners in South Dakota.

Software Developers, Applications

Applications software developers are projected to grow 25% from 2018 to 2028. This growth nearly mirrors the nation’s growth for this occupation (26%). Although at first blush this might not seem like an occupation prevalent in health care, the health and medical insurance and reinsurance carrier’s industry will need the innovative software these programmers write to manage new health care policy enrollments and administer existing policies digitally. However, unlike most of the occupations we have just looked at, as well as those yet to come, applications software developers work in a wide variety of industries, not just one industry. Therefore, the quick clip at which this occupation is growing is caused by many different reasons.

First and foremost, this occupation is growing due to technological changes occurring in nearly every industry and aspect of our lives. Whether it is a personal assistant such as Alexa or Google Nest to a home security service, to the oven which can keep your casserole cool when you leave in the morning until it is time to start baking it so it will be ready when you get home from work, to the latest streaming service being offered, they all run off software applications.

Not only do the ways we use these applications continue to grow, but so do the different types of platforms on which these applications must work ̶ from the computer in your appliances or vehicles, to your laptop, tablet, smart phone or watch. Each of these various applications and platforms require the skill of someone who can develop the apps that make them work. In South Dakota, many government and private employers hire these workers to develop software relevant to their business or the services they offer their clients and/or customers. Some developers work on a contract basis and may enjoy living in South Dakota while programming for a client halfway 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. 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 nationally and in South Dakota for a long time to come.

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 25%. 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 2018-2028. This trend is again closely mirroring the national trend, where post-secondary health specialties teachers are projected to grow 23% during the same time.

Occupational Therapy Assistants

Rounding out the top ten list of the fastest growing occupations in South Dakota from 2018-2028 is a newcomer to the list. Occupational therapy assistants work with patients and help them develop, recover, improve and maintain the skills needed for daily living after the patient has suffered a traumatic event. Events can include, but are not limited to, an accident or disease such as a stroke or heart attack or surgery such as hip replacement, etc.

Some of the growth in this occupation will be due to the graying of South Dakota’s population; however, some of it because of the influx of people migrating into South Dakota. Regardless of age, a larger population equates to more health care needs. In addition to an older and larger population, some of the growth in this occupation is because of the availability of these workers to patients. As more insurance companies cover the expense of this therapy, the demand for these workers has increased. Not too many years ago a broken hip would likely have resulted in a move to a nursing home. However, with medical advancements and treatments, today after a successful surgery many people can return to their everyday lives with the help of these assistants to rehabilitate.

Where to Find More Information on South Dakota Occupational Employment Projections for 2018-2028

The employment projections to 2028 recently completed for 531 detailed occupations by the LMIC are available on our website from the occupational projections menu page.