Economic Indicators

Imagine it’s this week in 1966. No smartphones. No cryptocurrency. No color televisions. The US hasn’t even walked on the moon yet.

Maybe you’re driving your Ford Mustang and you’ve got the AM radio on. Or maybe you’re at home with your friends and your record player. We’re talking straight-up vinyl. An old-school 45, baby.   

And the record you’ve just purchased is the same song that’s all over the radio, the same song that just hit #1, one of the most influential songs ever recorded in rock history: the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”  And you are blown away by what you are hearing.  

The song’s origin is somewhat strange—Brian Wilson’s mother telling him as a kid that dogs could feel a person’s “vibrations,” so that dogs would bark at “bad vibrations” if a person was bad. “Good Vibrations” was anything but bad, however, and the song can only be described as the first large-scale attempt at tape splicing, the use of multiple layering techniques, and breaking all the rules. “Good Vibrations” is less jam session and more multi-day, harmonized symphony. And, in the end, record-breaking.  

This month’s economic indicators are a lot like that. Record-low unemployment of 2.3% (32nd-lowest in the US). Record-high private weekly wages of $917 ($22 behind Sioux Falls and $80 ahead of Billings). Gross sales were well over $751 million in September, which is 17% higher than the same time twelve months ago. And housing units, building permits, ag prices, and almost everything else, up as well. 

To call this market hot would be an understatement. Partly driven by inflation, partly driven by a post-pandemic desire for the Black Hills, it’s really unlike anything we’ve seen before.  

The flip side of all of this continues to be high prices for homes and low availability of workforce. 

The community, the state, and Elevate keep throwing everything we’ve got at the issue. If you’ve not seen our workforce grant programs, please visit In addition, Elevate, in partnership with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, is also hiring a Housing Coordinator. We’re also doing a healthcare worker recruitment initiative in the next 90 days. And finally, we’re coming full force at the legislature this session for hundreds of millions to be put into housing for communities.

The trick will be, of course, continuing Rapid City’s growth while trying to bring more people into the workforce, and more housing units online. And let’s not forget about the Fed’s continued tapering and expected interest rate changes in the middle of next year. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’.

-Tom Johnson,
President & CEO

Updated: November 19, 2021

2021: January / February / March / April / May / June / July / August / September / October / November
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