Iowa’s Unemployment Continues Drop, Now at 5.2%

Iowa Workforce Development announced last week that Iowa’s unemployment rate had dropped to 5.2% in the month of March, down 0.1% from the previous month. While the unemployment rate dropped, the total nonfarm employment number actually fell by 1,600.

The drop in the statewide unemployment rate pulls Iowa even with New Hampshire for the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the nation. The national average fell a tenth of a percent from February and is now at 8.2%. The four states with better unemployment rates than Iowa are: New Hampshire (5.2%), Vermont (4.8%), South Dakota (4.3%), Nebraska (4.0%), and North Dakota (3.0%).

Nonfarm employment saw a drop of 1,600 jobs from February to March as the numbers fell from 1,492,100 to 1,490,500. The sectors reflecting the largest losses were ‘trade, transportation and utilities’ (-2,500) ‘leisure and hospitality’ (-1,300), and ‘government’ (-1,300). On a positive note both ‘construction’ (+1,300) and ‘manufacturing’ (+2,400) saw jumps in employment. These two sectors are often key indicators as to the overall direction of the economy, and both reflect the warmer/dryer than average winter and spring.

From February to March, 73 counties saw their unemployment rates drop, while 17 stayed the same, and only 9 counties had an unemployment rate that was higher. Lyon County continues to be the county with the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.2%. The next few are all similarly situated: Sioux (3.9%), Johnson (4.0 %), Carroll (4.0%), Story (4.1%), Shelby (4.1%), and Taylor (4.1%). The counties that are statistically hurting the most are Allamakee (8.8%), Hamilton (8.6%), Jasper (8.5%), and Lee (8.3%).

When the employment numbers are compared to a year ago at this time, Iowa has gained over 13,000 jobs. In March of 2011, the nonfarm employment was 1,477,200. The largest addition of jobs has come in the ‘manufacturing’ sectors as the state has added over 12,000 of those jobs in the last year.