South Dakota’s Department of Labor announced the state’s new March 2009 unemployment numbers Wednesday morning – numbers which find the Mouth Rushmore State enduring its highest jobless rate in more than 23 years.

The seasonally adjusted March 2009 unemployment rate of 4.9 percent is the highest in South Dakota since jobless claims hit 5.0 percent in December 1985.

While South Dakota’s unemployment rate is lower than most states across the nation, it is suffering through record rates of jobless increases as have its neighbors to the north and east.

The net 2.1-point rise in unemployment over the past 12-month period, from 2.8 percent in March 2008 to 4.9 percent in March 2009, is the largest in state history. In fact, three of the top five largest 12-month increases have occurred in each of the last three months:

Largest Yearly Percentage Point Unemployment Increase in South Dakota, 1976-2009

Rank
Period
Point increase
1
March 2008 – March 2009
2.1
2
July 1979 – July 1980
1.9
2
February 2008 – February 2009
1.9
4
August 1979 – August 1980
1.8
5
January 2008 – January 2009
1.7

Note: Table compiled by Smart Politics with data from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Moreover, the 75 percent increase in unemployment statewide over the past 12 months is also a new state record for South Dakota – records that have been broken during each of the past three consecutive months:

Largest Yearly Proportional Unemployment Increase in South Dakota, 1976-2009

Rank
Period
Percent increase
1
March 2008 – March 2009
75.0
2
February 2008 – February 2009
70.4
3
January 2008 – January 2009
63.0
4
July 1979 – July 1980
59.4
5
August 1979 – August 1980
56.3

Note: Table compiled by Smart Politics with data from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

On the positive side, South Dakota’s unemployment rate is still lower than the national average, as it has been dating back to the earliest Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data in January 1976 – a string of 399 consecutive months.

The closest South Dakota’s jobless rate has been shy of the national average is 0.9 points, in November 2000, with the largest difference at 5.0 points, set in November and December 1982. The state’s 4.9 percent rate is currently 3.6 points lower than the national average of 8.5 percent.

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