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Monday, July 27, 2009

Lake County Unemployment Jumps to 7.7%

June numbers from the South Dakota Department of Labor paint a bleak picture for the Lake County economy: our unemployment rate here jumped to 7.7%, up from May's 6.9%. 7.7% is the highest unemployment Lake County has seen since January 1992. We have 525 workers running around without jobs, the highest number I can find in the online stats (which go back only to 1990).

How's that compare with the rest of the state?
  • The statewide rate stayed flat at 4.9%
  • None of the 11 major (micro-)metro areas in the state had unemployment rates above 6%.
  • Watertown, which "led" the SD metros in May with 6.9% unemployment, gained 235 workers and 475 jobs to drop its June jobless rate to 5.6%.
  • Brookings, that blessed neighboring Shangri-La where our economic development exec sleeps at night, rose to its own 20-year high of 3.8%... but that's still half the Lake County rate.
  • Yankton, where Gehl suspended production in April, is still at 5.9%, but that's down a tick from May.
  • Moody County had an even worse jump, from 5.2% to 7.4%. Moody actually added 55 jobs last month, but another 105 people beyond that joined their available labor pool. (Uh oh—I can hear the temptation to implement the old California Okie policy: don't let anyone in unless they have jobs lined up!)
Maybe we could use some ag stimulus to put those 7.7% to work. Let's quit using Roundup and go back to hiring folks to walk the beans. And given this damnable cool weather we're having, maybe the extension service should hire a Garden Corps to go around to folks' gardens and help them cut out the foliage with blight!


  1. Our heavy reliance on manufacturing is hurting us. It appears that there is still growth in the service sector (credit card service centers, phone banks, claims centers) and some manufacturers in surrounding communities are hiring. Until the economy starts to fire up again, we probably need to pull out all the stops and use some Forward Madison funds to attract firms that provide services to other companies, such as credit card providers, banks, insurance companies and fulfillment firms. Maybe some of those companies would benefit from satellite locations and putting some of our workers back to work.

  2. We have 57 houses on the market, 25 of those below 120K. With unemployment high it seems apparent the TIF district was a mistake. Jobs drive the housing market not the other way around. It was local political influence rising above common sense. How could they disagree with Sarah Palin that it's all about job creation. Or was that Tina Fey?

  3. [An Anon complains... so I point out that "GoldMan" is Rod Goeman, one of my Lake County neighbors who knows quite about economic conditions in Lake County.] I still disagree with Rod's call for call centers, but people need paychecks. If some call center offered to move here, I'm not sure I'd want to be the one standing between it and the 525 people who are looking for work in our county right now.

  4. JohnSD, we might call it an ill-timed gamble. With the economy bad, we have fewer individuals willing to gamble on buying a new house in a new town. We've sold one TIF house, and that's to a local gal. It's a positive that we've found a way to get her into a good house... but that's the kind of work Habitat for Humanity does, in a way that costs less and brings the community together. In this situation, I'm inclined to agree that we have to build jobs first—jobs with good (union?) wages that give people the cash to trade up in the housing market.

  5. Cory, at best I would call it misdirected. Starter homes aren't selling well I'm told (no one from Gehl has purchased a home in a year). Those who want to move up a rung from the bottom can't because their starter house won't sell, yet listing prices haven't come down considerably. Probably they would be upside down. These are the most houses I've seen for sale, now 58. If I recall correctly the average sale time is 2 1/2 months, which is high. The housing market as well as unemployment rates are a meaningful local barometer.


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