South Dakota became the only state in the union to see lower unemployment in December 2020 than in December 2019.
The state saw a 0.4% decrease in the unemployment rate, which in December 2020 stood at 3.0% compared to 3.4% in December 2019, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Dakota is also tied with Nebraska for the lowest unemployment rates in the United States.
South Dakota was one of three states that either decreased their year-over-year unemployment rates or registered no change. Alaska’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.3% to 5.8%, and Nebraska’s rate was the same in December 2020 as it was in December 2019.
Gov. Kristi Noem has credited her soft touch with the coronavirus, including refusing lockdowns, as the source of the state’s success.
“South Dakota experienced a truly incredible year. Despite the pandemic forcing businesses to adjust, we have perhaps the strongest economy in the country. … We ended the 2020 fiscal year with a budget surplus,” Noem said in December.
“SD businesses cut the fewest hours and the fewest wages of any state in America. They had the lowest decrease in demand for their products and services. South Dakota’s economy took a hit when COVID came, just like every state, but we’ve come roaring back stronger than ever,” she said.
Noem has encouraged workers from neighboring Minnesota to move to South Dakota, warning Minnesota’s $1.3 billion budget deficit could bring “huge tax increases.” The state has implemented strict coronavirus rules, including requiring workers to work from home if possible, keeping restaurants at 50% capacity and gyms at 25% capacity.
Of the states that had the 10 lowest unemployment rates in December 2020, all but Kansas is led by a Republican governor. Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, Utah, Kansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Arkansas registered unemployment rates of less than 4.3%.
The states and territories with the highest unemployment rates — Illinois, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Mexico, New York, Colorado, California, Nevada, and Hawaii — all have Democratic governors and have instituted strict COVID-19 restrictions.
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