Iowa JobWatch: Iowa jobs grow, still at slow pace

Jobless rate 3.3 percent; fourth straight monthly increase in payroll jobs

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Sept. 15, 2017) — Iowa payroll jobs showed a fourth straight monthly boost, while the unemployment rate also bumped higher, to 3.3 percent.
The Iowa Policy Project released the following statement from Executive Director Mike Owen about the latest seasonally adjusted jobs data from Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Job growth remains stubbornly slow in Iowa. The 2,300 increase in August is about the average for the first eight months of the year. This is the best monthly average for any year since the Great Recession.

“However, it needs context.

“For perspective, the 200,000-jobs-in-five years goal of former Governor Branstad, on which the economy produced less than half of the goal, would have required about 3,300 jobs per month over five years, on average.

“And, as the Economic Policy Institute shows in its monthly ‘job deficit’ estimate, Iowa is about 33,300 jobs short of what it should have to keep up with population growth since the last recession started.”

Key Numbers

  • Iowa nonfarm jobs rose by 2,300 to 1,590,100 in August, 17,200 ahead of August 2016.
  • The increase compares with an increase in June of 6,100, significantly revised from the 11,200 reported previously.
  • Iowa’s unemployment rate was 3.3 percent, up slightly from 3.2 percent in July and down from 3.7 percent a year earlier.
  • Jobs gained in only four of the 11 major job categories, most in education and health services (2.500) and trade, transportation and utilities (1,600). Other net gains were in professional and business services (1,000) and “other” services (1,300).
  • The largest declines came in leisure and hospitality jobs (1,500) and financial activities (1,300). Smaller declines showed in construction (900), information (300) and manufacturing (100). There was no change in mining or government.

Key Trends

  • Iowa nonfarm jobs were up 17,200 over the 12 months from August 2016 to August 2017, or an average of about 1,400 jobs per month.
  • Over the year, education and health services jobs have gained the most (9,000), followed by trade, transportation and utilities (5,400), and professional and business services (4,100).
  • Three categories declined over the previous 12 months — construction by 5,900, government by 2,000, and information by 1,500.

Job Growth Perspective

  • Iowa still has not recovered from the Great Recession when accounting for population growth. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Iowa would have had to gain 98,100 net nonfarm jobs to keep up with 6.4 percent population growth since the December 2007 start of the recession, but has gained back 64,900. This leaves a jobs deficit of 33,200.

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research organization based in Iowa City. Reports are at

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Mike Owen
Executive Director

20 E. Market St. • Iowa City, IA 52245
(319) 338-0773 • (319) 331-1287 cell

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