Despite COVID-19 impact, over 900 positions currently available

According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, the April unemployment rate for Brookings County was 8.6%. The state unemployment rate was 11.0% while the federal rate was 14.7%. The County had 19,284 people in the labor force with 17,618 employed. Prior to April, the highest level of unemployment in the last thirty years was in June of 1990, which showed a labor force of 13,898 and the number of workers at 13,095 for an unemployment rate of 5.8%.

“Our unemployment rate over the last five years had averaged just under 3%,” said Al Heuton, Executive Director of Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC). “It is apparent that COVID-19 has impacted our local business community and their ability to keep their workers employed.”

Despite the effects of the coronavirus on the economy, many Brookings businesses are still hiring. In fact, there are currently 931 job openings, according to Heuton. BEDC updates open job opportunities on a daily basis on their website, A temporary employment page has also been added to bridge the gap between displaced workers and short-term employment opportunities.  

“We will continue to promote the value and benefit of employment in order to sustain and grow our economy,” said Sarah Hauge, BEDC’s Director of Workforce Employment. “In addition to posting jobs on our website free of charge, businesses are encouraged to reach out to BEDC for support and resources.”

Hauge expects the unemployment rate to possibly climb higher in May because a few businesses did announce layoffs. National models predict South Dakota could reach 15.8% unemployment by July. These projections are based on the number of jobs within industries most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Brookings is fortunate to have a diversified economy which enables the area to better resist recessions and negative impacts produced by events such as COVID-19,” said Heuton.  “Further diversifying the economy through entrepreneurship and selective industry recruitment is an on-going BEDC strategy.”

When comparing the unemployment rate of the ten largest counties in South Dakota, Brookings County’s rate of 8.6% was the lowest while Lawrence County was the highest at 21.7%.

Residents are encouraged to visit the COVID-19 Community Dashboard at to track the ongoing effects of the pandemic on the Brookings economy.


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