Iowa JobWatch: Jobs Down; So Is Jobless Rate

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Nov. 22, 2013) — Iowa nonfarm jobs declined in October for the third straight month while the state’s jobless rate also fell, to 4.6 percent, matching its lowest point of the year. Iowa Workforce Development released two months of numbers today, as the October release was postponed due to the federal government shutdown. The nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project (IPP) released this statement from Research Associate Heather Gibney:

“Even with a lower unemployment rate, Iowa’s job picture has taken two steps backward over these two months. The October decline may have been affected by the temporary federal government shutdown, and next month we might be able to see if the setback was only temporary.

“In the meantime, we have erased progress that had brought Iowa above its pre-recession job numbers, and are starting to see a sluggish pace of job growth for the longer term — if the October numbers are not overly skewed by the shutdown. The decline in September was far greater than the October drop.
“Once again we see the seemingly contradictory combination of a loss of jobs but a better unemployment rate — a mixed picture. We need to remember that these numbers represent different things and come from different surveys. The nonfarm jobs number comes from a survey of employers; the unemployment rate comes from a survey of households and is a much smaller sample. We have traditionally focused more on the job number as the most reliable indicator of progress in the state’s economy.”


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Key Numbers

Nonfarm jobs decreased by 7,500 in September and 800 in October to 1,524,100, dipping back below the pre-recession payroll job peak (1,528,000) that the state had passed this summer. Nonfarm jobs were 19,800 ahead of where they stood last July.
Nonfarm jobs are down 800 from the level at the start of the last recession in December 2007.
 The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in October, its lowest point since June and May of this year. It is down from 4.7 percent in September and 5.1 percent a year earlier.
The labor force — those working or looking for work — rose by 100 from September and was up 28,900 over the year.
Initial unemployment claims were 12,730 in October, up 45 percent from September and down 4 percent from October 2012. The number of continuing claims — 22,832 — was up 4 percent for the month and down 10 percent for the year.

Key Trends

Iowa’s average monthly job increase over the last six, 12 and 18 months has been at 1,000 or less. That compares poorly not only to “boom” years but to moderate-growth years.

The education and health services category posted the largest gain in October (2,600), along with gains of 1,600 in manufacturing, 600 in leisure and hospitality, and 300 in construction and 200 in financial activities. Government jobs led declines with 2,300, along with 1,100 in trade and transportation, 700 in professional and business services, 400 in information, and 1,600 in other services.
Over the year, the biggest gains have been in education and health services (3,900), professional and business services (3,700), and manufacturing (3,500). The largest declines have been in government (4,000) and other services (2,900).

Job Growth Perspective

Governor Branstad set a goal of 200,000 new jobs over five years. Iowa’s economy has produced 48,200 net new jobs through the first 33 months of his term. To add the remaining 151,800 jobs, Iowa would need to 5,600 new jobs per month over the next 27 months, compared to the 1,500 pace of the first 33 months. Iowa has not sustained growth of even 2,000 jobs per month over a calendar year since the 1990s.

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