SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are over nine million job openings in the U.S. right now, with an unemployment rate of just over three and a half percent according the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The pool of available workers is even smaller in South Dakota where the latest unemployment rate was just 1.9 percent.

In tonight’s Eye on KELOLAND, as the competition for talent continues across the country, more companies are widening their search with the help of remote workers.

“During the pandemic like most people, I started working remotely, I thought I’d like it but I liked it way more than I thought I would even,” Neugebauer said.

It’s why South Dakota native Josh Neugebauer decided to pursue a full-time remote career in 2021.

“I started looking for opportunities and came across one in New York City,” Neugebauer said.

A year after getting the job in New York, a California start-up contacted the Human Resources professional to help grow their team.

“We’re 260 employees right now, where last year at this time we were about 150, so we’re in that rapid growth phase, really trying to scale up,” Neugebauer said.

A big part of his company’s growth is moving as many of their positions to fully remote.

“Our remote population is 30 percent remote right now, the rest are all in Berkely, California, a lot of scientists, researchers in labs there, they are all on sight or hybrid,” Neugebauer said.

But those new positions that can be remote are posted as a job opening anyone in the world can apply to.

“On my team alone, we have someone from England, someone from Scotland, someone from Philippines, someone from Hawaii, Boston,” Neugebauer said.

Neugebauer says their diverse backgrounds are a big benefit to the company.

“Just so many different ways of thinking about everything,” Neugebauer said.

But they also open up a much larger pool of potential applicants.

“Last week we opened a position for business analyst and that was a week ago, its been seven days there’s been 800 applicants for it, so it’s like that for most rolls,” Neugebauer said.

“I see a lot of openings now that are remote only or remote based,” Software engineer Ross Effling said.

While many remote positions are coming from coastal companies, Software Engineer Ross Effling says his company, Knowink, started in South Dakota and quickly learned the value of adding remote positions to the team.

“One of our main offices is in Pierre, but we also have folks that work out of Oregon, Washington, east coast, in North Carolina area, Minnesota, we have folks all over, including Hawaii too,” Effling said.

Effling sees adding more remote positions is a great opportunity for companies in KELOLAND to recruit more specialized employees.

“Companies based in South Dakota, it helps them a lot, there’s a lot of people that don’t realize there are good opportunities to work for those companies,” Effling said.

And while they may not have to move to South Dakota to start their remote position, the City of Sioux Falls is seeing plenty of remote workers moving to town, but many of them are still working for companies outside of the region.

“They’re not necessarily working here today, but our goal is that they’re working here tomorrow,” Guzzetta said.

Denise Guzzetta is the VP of Talent and Workforce Development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. She says the migration of remote workers to South Dakota is a big opportunity for local employers.

“If we can look at these people that are coming here, then get them involved with our own employees, our own employees will recruit them here,” Guzzetta said.

She says it makes a lot of sense why so many remote workers are choosing to move to the city

“We have great schools, great community,” Guzzetta said. “The tax and the business sense of living here in the state makes sense.”

“When you factor in the cost of living and everything else… being close to home means that I can still grow my profession, grow my career and still be close to family as well too,” Effling said.

“It’s awesome to be able to stay in South Dakota. I love Sioux falls, phenomenal in so many ways,” Neugebauer said.

While they may choose to stay in KELOLAND, local companies competing for employees like Effling and Neugebauer are facing a big lineup of global opportunities.

“Whether you’re a South Dakota business, a Nebraska business, Iowa business, it doesn’t matter if you’re not competing against those national employers, they’re competing with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re competing in the remote work revolution, they are,” Neugebauer said.

A revolution that’s not going anywhere as the perks of remote positions have made them some of the most highly-sought after job-openings in the country.

“Just the flexibility of being able to do your work when it works essentially,” Neugebauer said.

Remote employees are not only choosing when to do their work, but where they want to work from.

“People who have been to 50, 60 countries, been to countless states,” Neugebauer said. “They’re traveling anywhere and everywhere.”

“There are times in the summer time where I’ll go down to Denver area, work there for a few months staying at a friends place,” Effling said.

That flexibility combined with highly competitive pay…

“San Francisco is the highest pay market still, number 2 is New York, number 3 is remote workers,” Neugebauer said. “You don’t really get a discount anymore by hiring someone in the Midwest or a state that has also cost of living.”

…has more of South Dakota’s limited pool of employees choosing to stay in the state while growing their career by working remotely.

“It’s not going to go away, that’s where companies are meeting people where they’re at,” Guzetta said.

Neugebauer says the availability of remote position has dropped each year since the pandemic, but even as fewer remote job openings are available, they’re seeing even more applicants. But salaries still remain highly competitive to attract top talent.