Iowa Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.4 Percent

Date posted - March 13, 2012

Iowa’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent in January, offering further evidence that the recovery strengthened during fourth quarter 2011. The statewide jobless rate was reported at 5.6 percent in December, and at 6.1 percent in January 2011. Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January.

Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development says that the Iowa economy is improving. She says the state’s unemployment rate has been tracking downward rapidly since fourth quarter 2011, as the recovery picked up speed. Newly revised figures for 2011 show that the statewide unemployment rate averaged 5.9 percent in 2011, which was the sixth-lowest rate in the nation.

The estimate of unemployed Iowans dropped to 90,400 in January from 93,400 in December. The comparable level for January 2011 was 101,200.

The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,576,300 in January from 1,573,300 in December, and from 1,567,500 one year ago. The newly revised labor force series for 2011 shows that total employment for the state has been gradually increasing since August 2011.

The January figures for individual counties will be released at the end of March.

Seasonally-Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Iowa’s total nonfarm employment increased by 3,700 in January, bringing the level to 1,484,300. Compared to last year, nonfarm employment has steadily added 9,200 jobs. Manufacturing continues to be the main driver in the recovery, leading all sectors in both over-the-month and over-the-year gains. Following the benchmark revision, manufacturing has posted nineteen consecutive months of increases.

Manufacturing added 3,500 jobs in January to lead all sectors. Hiring was evenly distributed between durable and nondurable goods factories. Leisure and hospitality ranked second in terms of job gains in January, up 3,200. Half of the growth in this sector was due to hiring in accommodations and food services. Other services added 1,600 jobs. Education and health services shed the most jobs of any sector in January, down 2,500. The loss was primarily fueled by a seasonal drop in education services, which is expected to rebound next month. Professional and business services pared 1,200 jobs, and has declined in four of the last five months. Elsewhere, trade and transportation lost 700 jobs, as a gain in wholesale trade was more than offset by losses in retail trade and transportation. Finance also posted a loss of 700 jobs in January.

Compared to January 2011, manufacturing is up 11,800 jobs. Construction advanced by 3,100 jobs over the year, which is another positive sign that the recovery is gaining traction. Government posted the largest loss of any sector, down 4,000. The drop was largely concentrated in state government. In the private sector, professional and business services contracted by 3,200 jobs.

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