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May jobs data will tell tale of recovery's status in South Dakota

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE -- South Dakota businesses added thousands of jobs during the past two years, bringing employment back to nearly the same peak as before the 2008 recession.

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That is, until a hiccup in March and April that saw job numbers slip backward again.

The answer to that quandary will be known in the coming days, when the state Department of Labor releases May jobs data on employment and labor force.

They will be the latest indicator as to whether recovery is continuing or has stalled.

Hiring was already on the upswing when there was a sudden acceleration last fall. That surge took employment up to 430,345 in January. Some of the gains vanished, however. In April, employment stood at 428,645. Breaking the 431,000 mark, whether it occurs in the May data or after, would establish a new high for South Dakota. At its peak, employment topped 430,000 for four months in early 2008, but then gradually dropped back, until it had slipped to less than 418,000 in November and December of 2009. Those losses of some 12,000 jobs essentially took South Dakota back to a 2006 employment level.

The latest report from the state Bureau of Finance and Management described growth in non-farm jobs as "an encouraging trend" as they climbed, on a year over year basis, for 21 of 22 months through April.

Single-family housing permits issued in April statewide also hit a one-year high of 208, an increase of 44 from April 2011.

For the 12-month period through April, single-family permits totaled 1,662, which were 102 more than for the similar period one year earlier.

All types of residential permits meanwhile were 2,422 for the May through April span, which were 330 more than for the year before.

The April unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, after peaking at 5.3 percent in December 2009. Prior to the recession hitting in late 2008, unemployment rippled in the high-2 to high-3 percent range. Despite employment nearly fully recovered, the unemployment rate hasn't fallen as promptly because the number of people in South Dakota's labor force has been on an increasing trend too. The labor force was reported at 447,990 in April. That was actually down a bit from the high of 449,370 in January.

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