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May 14, 2018 10:04 PM

Low Unemployment Rate In Sioux Falls Bad News For Seasonal Businesses

Sioux Falls

Nationwide, the unemployment rate is around 4 percent while it's 3 percent in South Dakota. 

Those numbers may sound good for the economy but some local businesses are struggling to find summer help.  

The demand for H-2B workers, or immigrant workers here on temporary visas, is rising and so are the difficulties with hiring H-2B employees.

They're the jobs no one else wants. 

"There isn't anybody here that wants to work," Landscape Garden Centers owner Erik Helland said. 

It's hard to find workers for tough labor jobs like landscaping says Helland. 

"We have applications, we interview them, we ask them to show up, and then they never show up to their first day of work. This happens over, and over and over," Helland said. 

Helland's solution hiring immigrant workers for the summer, under a special H-2B visa. 

"They show up to work every single day," Helland said. 

"The problem is, not only do they need more workers, we just don't have the U.S. workers available to fill these open positions," H-Visa president John Bellend said. 

John Bellend does the paperwork for people looking to hire workers under the H-2B Visa. 

"We need these workers immediately," Bellend said. 

Helland regularly applies for 20 workers. This year, he's waiting on a decision from Washington.

The government caps the number of H-2B workers at 33,000 people nationwide for the spring and summer season. 

At least 80,000 workers are needed. Businesses across the country are hoping the government will lift the cap to meet the need.

If they don't get their workers here for the summer, Landscape Garden Centers workers say they're not sure how they will get their work done.

"They're not really seeing how this does effect even the small landscaping business in Sioux Falls," Helland said. 

Helland says if his landscaping business doesn't get a decision soon there's no way they can get through their busy season. 

"If we don't get those workers, it's going to be a very difficult season far as how we're going to get work done," Helland said. 

It's taking longer to get the approval for the increase in the workers, because this is a relatively new problem given the recent declining unemployment rate across the country.

Senators Thune and Rounds have both signed a letter asking the secretary of homeland security to approve the increase. 

Here's a statement from Senator Thune to KELOLAND News regarding this issue: 

“South Dakota’s economy, particularly its tourism industry, depends on seasonal workers, which is why I support the H-2B visa program. Our state is lucky in that the unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, but that’s exactly why our small businesses need the temporary, supplemental workforce that’s made possible by H-2B visas. Congress granted the Department of Homeland security the authority to issue additional H-2B visas, and I urge them to act soon to help South Dakota small businesses.”

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