Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

July 2021

Taking a deep dive into South Dakota employment and wages by industry

The Labor Market Information Center (LMIC) on an annual basis produces wide ranging data on South Dakota employers, workers and pay by industry, location and size class.

The statistical program furnishing this impressive data set is the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). LMIC manages this program in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The QCEW program originated in the 1930s and was known as the ES-202 program until 2003, when the current QCEW name was adopted.

Each year the LMIC publishes, online, a comprehensive annual summary of QCEW data and industry evaluation illustrating trends occurring in South Dakota. There are archived annual summaries available, providing historical perspectives on South Dakota’s industry employment and wages. The annual summaries from 2004 forward are available on our website in PDF format; printed summaries are available back to 1980 in LMIC’s archives.

The 2020 summary provides highlights of all the QCEW program data which was tabulated throughout the year. Let’s dive in to discover the depth of information awaiting you from the QCEW program.

Highlights from 2020 summary

The average number of workers in South Dakota diminished by 13,000 (3.0%) from 2019 to 2020. This decrease was due in large part to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses were forced to close temporarily as the economy slowed.

Average annual pay, however, did not suffer losses; wages increased $4,015 (8.9%) from 2019 to 2020. The average annual wage settled at $49,165. Annual pay was aided by government programs intended to provide payroll assistance to businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Industry analyses

One of the most valuable components of the annual summary is the data and narrative analysis on South Dakota’s industry groups and more detailed industries. Following are some examples of the industry highlights provided in the annual summary.

The Trade, Transportation and Utilities supersector had the largest number of establishments (8,510) and workers (83,190) in 2020. Retail Trade accounted for almost half of the establishments and over half of the workers within this supersector.

The supersector category with the highest annual pay in 2020, at $69,344, was Financial Activities (including Finance and Insurance; and Real Estate, Rental and Leasing).

Beyond the supersector level, businesses are further classified into industry sectors and subsectors using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). At a more detailed industry level, Management of Companies and Enterprises retained its ranking of highest paid in 2020 with an average annual wage of $112,088. This sector is categorized within the Professional and Business Services supersector group.

Inside the annual online summary, a comparison graph complements each subsector data table, providing a graphical look at the over-the-year trend. The narrative analyses provide insights about various economic activities affecting the subsector’s employment levels and pay. For example, we learn Construction was one industry group showing positive change in both worker and pay levels from 2019 to 2020. Over the course of 2020, the Construction industry increased by 802 workers (3.4%). The average annual pay for this sector elevated by $3,008 (5.9%) to $54,005.

The Construction sector is divided into three subsectors. The Construction of Buildings (NAICS 236) subsector is defined with establishments performing new work, additions, alterations, maintenance and repairs. Work performed in the Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (NAICS 237) subsector includes establishments whose primary activity is the construction of entire engineering projects. It includes specialty trade contractors whose primary activity is the production of a specific component for such projects. The Specialty Trade Contractors (NAICS 238) subsector is defined as establishments whose primary activity is performing detailed activities involved in building construction such as pouring concrete, site preparation, plumbing, painting, etc.

Specialty Trade Contractors usually perform most of their work at the construction site, although they may have shops where they perform prefabrication and other work. The Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction subsector gained 555 workers (13.9%) in 2020. The Construction of Buildings subsector increased by 97 workers (1.7%) to bring the subsector’s total to 5,889 workers. Specialty Trade Contractors added 150 workers (1.1%). Utility system construction accounted for about two thirds of the worker level gain within the Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction. Many water, sewer, power and communication systems need replacing due to age and damage. Infrastructure remains at the forefront of many construction projects, and the trend is expected to continue. Many of these projects require assistance from specialized trade contractors, as their workers have the necessary skill sets (such as concrete work and electrical wiring) required in new development projects.

Sub-state data

The annual QCEW summary also details data for metro areas and counties in addition to statewide data.

The Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had 152,263 total workers, averaging $55,061 in annual wages. The Education and Health Services supersector had the highest number of workers with 32,082. Financial Activities ruled in annual pay, at $76,087.

The county with the highest worker level was Minnehaha with 124,913, while Union county continued as the county with the highest annual pay of $61,083.

Size of establishment data

The QCEW 2020 summary generates data on establishments, employment and wages ranked by size of establishment. The size class of each establishment is determined by March employment levels. Size class data are available at the state, county and MSA level by industry for private ownership.

Employers in the 0-9 workers size class had the largest number of establishments, accounting for 79.4% of all establishments.

The distribution of employees by establishment size displays a different visual than the distribution of establishments. Smaller businesses (less than 10 workers) have a smaller slice of the pie, employing 20.2% of the covered workers in South Dakota in 2020.

Industry size data for employers is also available. As noted in the 2020 summary, South Dakota had 42 Construction companies in the 50-99 worker category.

Historical data in virtual system

Quarterly and annual data from the QCEW program are available within the virtual labor market data system, providing a valuable vault of historical data. The number of workers data is accessible for each month within a quarter. The chart below displays the number of establishments, average number of workers, total wage, average weekly wage and average annual wage in South Dakota for the past 20 years. Private and government ownership is included. The numbers indicate stable growth each year with the exception of a few recessionary years.

South Dakota Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
Annual Averages 2001-2020
Year Number
2001 29,381 364,716 $9,336,850,554 $492 $25,600
2002 29,366 363,325 $9,576,884,320 $507 $26,359
2003 29,671 364,256 $9,910,087,814 $523 $27,206
2004 30,213 369,627 $10,453,754,789 $544 $28,282
2005 30,938 375,699 $10,951,184,186 $561 $29,149
2006 31,368 383,856 $11,623,744,419 $582 $30,282
2007 31,945 392,068 $12,410,645,439 $609 $31,654
2008 32,306 397,109 $13,033,404,203 $631 $32,821
2009 32,361 389,410 $12,985,743,821 $641 $33,347
2010 32,493 389,199 $13,361,396,655 $660 $34,331
2011 32,790 393,750 $13,943,807,729 $681 $35,413
2012 33,088 400,473 $14,630,431,511 $703 $36,533
2013 33,416 404,648 $15,063,362,358 $716 $37,226
2014 33,761 410,939 $15,898,891,588 $744 $38,689
2015 34,380 416,017 $16,716,017,132 $773 $40,181
2016 34,783 420,465 $17,309,711,067 $792 $41,168
2017 35,127 422,753 $17,934,828,021 $816 $42,424
2018 35,611 426,917 $18,653,951,829 $840 $43,695
2019 36,326 430,116 $19,419,630,486 $868 $45,150
2020 37,175 417,110 $20,506,956,998 $946 $49,165
Source: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Labor Market Information Center, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. Data produced in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The foundation of data in this program is the employment and wage data reported by employers to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s Reemployment Assistance (RA) program and to the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. Employment covered by these unemployment insurance programs represents about 96% of all wage and salary civilian employment in the state.

Historical value

It could be argued 2020, the crazy year of the pandemic, underlined the historical importance and value of employment and wage data on South Dakota’s industries available through the QCEW program. The year brought unprecedented month-to-month employment drops, due in large part to business closures, workers being laid off and, in some cases, jobs being eliminated—as a result of COVID-19. Nationally, an emergency was declared as COVID-19 spread across the country. Although South Dakota did not have state-mandated business closures like most states did and therefore avoided even more drastic economic blows, 2020 still brought never-before-seen challenges to the state’s businesses. Social distancing measures and greater cleaning methods had to be adopted to slow the spread of the disease, costly for many businesses. While South Dakotans sheltered at home due to health concerns, many businesses who directly serve the public were devastatingly impacted. Some scrambled to modify business practices and offer new services like online ordering, curb-side pickup and delivery to help them stay afloat.

Annual pay figures for 2020 were impacted to some extent by government programs designed to provide payroll assistance to businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Annual pay reflects total compensation paid to covered workers in the form of wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions and overtime pay during the year. In some cases, bonuses distributed to upper management positions were substantial enough to impact average pay figures.

The QCEW and the detailed annual online summary is the most comprehensive data source available for detailed industry worker and wage information. The data is used daily by individuals, private businesses, government agencies, economic developers and researchers to make informed decisions, particularly regarding wage increases and industry growth.

The accurate collection of data throughout the years has highlighted South Dakota as remaining economically stable with moderate worker growth and annual pay increases for several years. The QCEW program provides dive-worthy establishment, employment and wage data on South Dakota’s industries. It is accurate, high quality, timely and relevant data—not to mention it provides a historical record of the state’s labor economics.