Iowa's Unemployment Rate Decreases to 10.0 Percent in May

Iowa Workforce Development Communications
For Immediate Release
Date: June 19, 2020
Contact: Molly Elder
Telephone: 515-725-4116

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Iowa's Unemployment Rate Decreases to 10.0 Percent in May

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 10.0 percent in May. The state’s jobless rate was 2.7 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent in May.

“Given Iowa did not begin to reopen until May, it is not surprising that the unemployment rate remains at 10%.  There are signs, however, that more people are returning to work as we see the total number of claims decline each week,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “Moving forward, we are looking at the numbers of initial and continuing claims to determine the shape and speed of our recovery. Iowa's economy was strong going into the pandemic and we have over 50K job postings on IowaWORKS for Iowans looking for new jobs: We continue to encourage open communication between employers and employees to create and implement safe work practices. We encourage employers to follow the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. COVID-19 guidance and resources for various industries can be found on”

The number of unemployed Iowans declined to 168,100 in May from 188,000 in April. The current estimate is 121,000 higher than the year ago level of 47,100. 

The total number of working Iowans fell to 1,520,000 in May. This figure was 4,600 less than April and 163,900 lower than one year ago. 

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Iowa establishments added 15,800 jobs in May as firms began cautious reopening following social distancing measures in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). This month’s gain is historically large, yet still small relative to the April drop due to quarantine efforts. Larger expansions are expected to occur in later summer months. The May increase was the first job gain for Iowa since October and was largely fueled by leisure and hospitality. Government again showed large declines at the local education level and may be the result of cancelled summer activities. Overall, government shed 8,400 jobs in May while private sectors increased by 24,200 jobs.

Leisure and hospitality added 18,200 jobs in May, helping ease some of the job loss in April due to distancing measures. Arts, entertainment, and recreation added 7,000 and accommodations and food services grew by 11,200. Even with the large gains, these sectors still remain down 38 percent versus last year’s mark, but larger recovery should be seen as the summer progresses and consumers become more comfortable with new physical-distancing safety protocols at local businesses. Manufacturing also showed some rebound in May (+2,900). All of the job gains were in nondurable goods factories (+3,300). Durable goods shops continued to show some weakness and edged down 400 jobs. Professional and business services added 1,600 jobs and were fueled by administrative support and waste management industries. Other services added 1,300 jobs following losses stretching back to January. Retail trade showed some signs of recovery in May (+5,100) and fueled a gain of 1,200 jobs since April. This gain was tempered by a loss in wholesale trade and transportation and warehousing. Education and health services lost 800 jobs in May due to losses in private education (-1,500).

Annually, total nonfarm employment remains down 11.0 percent compared to last May. Leisure and hospitality has trimmed the most from their payrolls (-54,300 jobs or 37.7 percent). Education and health care lags behind by 23,400 jobs and trade and transportation by 21,300. Government is down 30,300 jobs (-11.6 percent) as schools and public administration entities reduced staff in May.

MEDIA ALERT:  Local data for May 2020 will be posted to the IWD website on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.  Statewide data for June 2020 will be released on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Employment and Unemployment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
        Change from
  May April May April May
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Civilian labor force 1,688,100 1,712,600 1,731,000 -24,500 -42,900
Unemployment 168,100 188,000 47,100 -19,900 121,000
Unemployment rate 10.0% 11.0% 2.7% -1.0 7.3
Employment 1,520,000 1,524,600 1,683,900 -4,600 -163,900
U.S. unemployment rate 13.3% 14.7% 3.6% -1.4 9.7
Nonfarm Employment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
Total Nonfarm Employment 1,411,300 1,395,500 1,585,900 15,800 -174,600
Mining 2,200 2,200 2,500 0 -300
Construction 69,800 70,100 78,100 -300 -8,300
Manufacturing 215,200 212,300 226,200 2,900 -11,000
Trade, transportation and utilities 289,100 287,900 310,400 1,200 -21,300
Information 19,700 19,600 21,400 100 -1,700
Financial activities 107,800 107,800 110,000 0 -2,200
Professional and business services 125,400 123,800 139,400 1,600 -14,000
Education and health services 211,700 212,500 235,100 -800 -23,400
Leisure and hospitality 89,600 71,400 143,900 18,200 -54,300
Other services 50,200 48,900 58,000 1,300 -7,800
Government 230,600 239,000 260,900 -8,400 -30,300
 (above data subject to revision)          


Unemployment Insurance Claims for Iowa
        % Change from
  May April May April May
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Initial claims 53,242 157,324 10,304 -66.2% 416.7%
Continued claims          
     Number of claimants 204,355 182,802 20,268 11.8% 908.3%
     Weeks paid 713,174 655,332 67,527 8.8% 956.1%
     Amount paid $220,645,934 $214,036,593 $26,196,736 3.1% 742.3%