Wages in Sioux Falls

During the financial report last Tuesday at the Sioux Falls city council informational meeting, councilor Staggers asked Tracy Turbak after he told us about the glowing unemployment rate in Sioux Falls what wages were like in Sioux Falls. Turbak of course says he doesn’t keep that kind of data (yeah right), but told Dr. Staggers he was welcome to check the South Dakota Department of Labor Statistics.

During the course of the meeting, councilor Erickson did some googling on her I-Pad and reported that the average median household income in Sioux Falls was $50,700 a year. Now let’s remember what this means, this is ‘household’ income, NOT, ‘personal individual income’. Big difference.

That aside, it got me to googling today. I cross referenced many different national websites and statistics, too many to link and after collecting data nationally, statewide and city wide on cost of living, etc. My educated guess is that the average individual worker in Sioux Falls must make at least $16.00 an hour to make a ‘living wage’ which comes to $33,280 a year. It varies in different parts of the country ($15-$20 per hour), but for a city our size, that is the closest. Now remember, my definition of a living wage is ‘covering expenses’ there is no wiggle room their for ‘extras’ like a recreational vehicles, vacations, or even basic entertainment.

It is believed that 53% of American workers make less then a living wage, we are a little bit better then that in Sioux Falls, and we will get to that in a moment.

After figuring out what a living wage in Sioux Falls should look like, I followed the SD Department of Labor MSA statistics on Sioux Falls (these are end of 2013 numbers)

Sioux Falls had 140,000 workers in 2013

42% of them made under a living wage (59,000) but what was even more shocking was that almost half of them (27,000) made 50% of the living wage or below ($16,640) per year.

Who makes the lowest wages in Sioux Falls? You probably already guessed it. In a town that loves to brag about all the great restaurants we have in town, most of the poverty wages come from the hospitality industry.

I was glad to see that we are below the national average, but I do believe Sioux Falls has a lot of work to do when it comes to wages. There is a reason our food banks are handing out food at a record level and that almost half of the kids in our school district are on FREE or reduced lunches. Low unemployment is one thing, but higher wages contribute to a better quality of life.


#1 Dan Haugen on 08.31.14 at 4:29 pm

Any idea whether the hospitality wages you’re looking at include tips?

#2 Joan on 08.31.14 at 5:21 pm

When you mention people not having enough income for basic entertainment, I get really annoyed when I read/hear people complain that the people on food stamps can afford flat screen TVs and internet services. The people that do the complaining don’t seem to realize that is the only entertainment these people can afford. They should really look at it like this—–there but for the grace of God, go they.

#3 l3wis on 09.01.14 at 8:02 am

Dan, great question. While the state MSA doesn’t really break it down, I was able to find another site that did. about 80% of hospitality workers ARE NOT tipped employees. You must also take into account that tipped employees get paid about $3 an hour before tips. They are also required to share between 25-33% of their tips with other employees. I will say this to about working PT as a tipped employee, some nights you make good money, some nights you don’t make enough to even make it worth it.

#4 rufusx on 09.01.14 at 2:42 pm

FWIW – As part of the much maligned (on this blog) Sioux Falls Tomorrow project – the NUMBER ONE priority that came out of the economic development group’s discussions was INCREASING the general INCOME/WAGE levels of the metro area.

#5 l3wis on 09.01.14 at 2:47 pm

Ruf – Saying something is one thing, doing it is another.

#6 BH on 09.01.14 at 9:16 pm

L3wis, Just how do you suggest that “they” make that happen, to increase the average monies earned? What would you suggest they do to accomplish this?

#7 l3wis on 09.02.14 at 8:51 am

By distributing the profits fairly to the employee’s payroll.

#8 Dan Daily on 09.02.14 at 10:40 am

There’s a national demonstration today addressing $15/hr for fast food workers. I tend to agree. They don’t get tips and work hard for less than a living wage.

#9 85thstuckee on 09.02.14 at 8:50 pm

No one will change wages til they have to. Probably do as they have for the past six years give them an increase in the ebt card program. I just got back from Oklahoma and the areas south of Oklahoma City was a frickn mess. Obviously when arra funds were dished out the Okies didn’t get any. Plenty of walmarts next to for sale commercial sites. Just like the Econ educators told us that they would put small business out of business they have boy have they. Disgusting crap got us all in the barrel especially our great city govt who loves walmart and the baggage they bring with them

#10 teatime on 09.05.14 at 8:58 pm

Joan — many of the poorer people get free internet now.

#11 teatime on 09.05.14 at 9:01 pm

What bothers me about wage stats is that the average and median are always touted as being representative of what people are living on. The mode, I think, is more important, as it illustrates what the greatest number of people are living on. Averages are skewed by high end earners and median is just a middle point, not very meaningful.