South Dakota unemployment rate drops below pre-pandemic levels, Gov. Noem announces

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South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem touted her state’s low unemployment rate in a Friday afternoon tweet, noting it’s pre-pandemic standing as she refused to close businesses despite spiking coronavirus cases.

“South Dakota’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.0% in December,” the Republican governor wrote. “That’s lower than it was BEFORE the pandemic.”

Noem, an avid Trump supporter, made headlines last spring when she refused to enforce stay-at-home orders in the Mount Rushmore State, telling reporters during an April press briefing that “South Dakota is not New York City.”

Though South Dakota, the fifth least populist state in the U.S., has had far fewer cases than New York – which has had one and a half times as many cases of coronavirus than the entire population of South Dakota – they have also carried one of the worst infection rates in the country.

South Dakota currently has a total infection rate of over 12,000 cases per every 100,000 people, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Neom’s state saw one of the largest outbreaks of work-place transmitted coronavirus cases when nearly 1,300 employees at the Smithfield meatpacking facility in Sioux Falls tested positive for COVID-19 last year. 


But Noem has rejected the negative attention brought on by her state’s infection rate, calling the conclusions “demonstrably false,” in a December briefing.

“Many in the media criticized this approach, labeling me ill-informed, a ‘denier’, and reckless,” Noem told reporters. “Some have even asserted that South Dakota is ‘as bad as it gets anywhere in the world’ when it comes to COVID-19, a demonstrably false statement.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Dakota has the third-best unemployment rate in the country, behind Nebraska and Vermont.

Vermont, which came second in the country’s lowest unemployment rate, did enforce strict coronavirus measures and has also seen the lowest infection rate in the country, with less than 1,700 cases of coronavirus per every 100,000 people.


Vermont enforced stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and chose to reopen the state slowly. The state’s ability to maintain a low infection rate has also meant they could keep their stay running.

Fox News could not immediately reach the South Dakota governor’s office for comment.

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