Iowa JobWatch: Big one-month drop in Iowa jobs

  • Jobless rate dips to 3.2 percent
  • 4,000-job drop in payroll jobs largest in three years
  • Manufacturing job rebound one brightening spot in 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Oct. 26, 2017) — Iowa payroll jobs fell in September for the first time in five months despite a slight decline in the unemployment rate, to 3.2 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).

 

“The decline in September — 4,000 jobs — was the largest one-month drop in almost three years, but the net change for 2017 remains positive, if slow. The September drop leaves Iowa’s monthly average job growth to about 1,200 for the last 12 months. (graph below)

“As always, we discourage too much emphasis on one month. For one thing, these numbers will be re-evaluated by IWD and BLS next month and might be revised. The longer-term trends tell more about the condition of the economy.

“To be sure, Iowa has not shown strong job-growth trends. The Economic Policy Institute has shown that Iowa needs to average 1,500 net new jobs each month for the next three years just to catch the job level when the last recession started almost 10 years ago, considering the pace of population growth over that time. Yet, a review of IWD numbers shows Iowa has only hit that mark — a 1,500 monthly average increase — in four of the last nine calendar years, the highest being 1,800 in 2011.”


Key Numbers

  • Iowa nonfarm jobs fell by 4,000 to 1,586,600 in September, 14,200 ahead of September 2016.
  • The September decline was the largest one-month drop since a 4,400 decrease in October 2013.
  • Iowa’s unemployment rate was back down to 3.2 percent, from a one-month bump to 3.3 percent in August. It compares with 3.6 percent a year earlier.
  • Jobs gained in only three of the 11 major job categories, most in leisure and hospitality (2,100) and financial activities (1,200), plus a small boost in manufacturing (600).
  • The largest declines came in educational and health services (4,500), and professional and business services (1,500). There was no change in mining or other services.

Key Trends

  • Iowa nonfarm jobs were up 14,200 over the 12 months from September 2016 to September 2017, or an average of about 1,200 jobs per month. For the nine months of 2017, the average is slightly better, at 1,600.
  • Over the year, education and health services jobs have gained the most (4,900 despite the big drop in September. Financial activities jobs have grown by 4,200, along with leisure and hospitality jobs (4,000) and trade, transportation and utilities (3,900).
  • Three categories declined over the previous 12 months — construction by 6,600, information by 1,600 and government by 1,300.

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 99,100 net nonfarm jobs to keep up with 6.5 percent population growth since the December 2007 start of the last recession, but has gained back 61,400. This leaves a jobs deficit of 37,700.

Job Sector Spotlight: Manufacturing

  • Manufacturing has traditionally been one of Iowa’s better sectors for jobs that pay well and have benefits. That sector has been spotty in the last two years after rising to record highs of 217,500 jobs in July 2014 and January 2015. In the last five months manufacturing has been moving up and in September showed its highest number, at 215,400, since January 2016 (215,500).

 

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

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