Iowa's Unemployment Rate Drops to 2.5 Percent

Iowa Workforce Development Communications
For Immediate Release
Date: September 21, 2018
Contact: Cory Kelly
Telephone: 515-330-5646

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Status of the Iowa Workforce

Iowa's unemployment rate dropped to 2.5 percentIowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 2.5 percent in August. The state’s jobless rate was 3.0 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent in

"Not since May of 2000 has Iowa seen an unemployment rate this low,” said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “As the unemployment rate continues to drop, Iowans are coming together as never before to find ways to help more Iowans get upskilled as demonstrated by the more than 1,900 community and business leaders who are attending Future Ready Iowa summits. The summits are scheduled across the state and will provide local leaders to develop local solutions to local workforce issues. The response to the summits has been overwhelming and we are working to insure that as many Iowans as possible will be able to attend. While several of the early summits are already at capacity with wait lists, there are still slots available in Centerville, Cedar Valley, Creston, Elkader, Fort Dodge, Des Moines, Ottumwa and Pella.”

Construction is August's fastest growing sectorThe number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 42,800 in August from 44,000 in July. The current estimate is 8,300 lower than the year ago level of 51,100.

The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,642,500 in August. This figure was 2,200 higher than July and 15,800 higher than one year ago.

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Iowa establishments displayed strong hiring in construction and trade in August and gained 2,300 jobs. The monthly increase follows a slight loss in July and is the fifth increase in 2018 compared to three monthly drops. Goods producing industries continued to fuel much of the growth mostly due to hiring within construction. Service industries were lifted by hiring in government due to larger-than-expected seasonal increases at the state and local levels. The gain of 1,000 jobs in August puts government up 700 jobs compared to last year, whereas total nonfarm employment combined is up 21,100 jobs.

In August, wholesale and retail trade were responsible for a combined 1,700 jobs added, with wholesale outpacing retail by nearly a two-to-one margin. Wholesale trade has had gains in three of the last four months; alternatively, retail rebounded slightly following a large drop in July and has been generally trending down since last year. Construction again added jobs in August (+1,100) and has now added jobs in every month since January. This has been a stark turnaround compared to last year when jobs were added in only two months. Smaller gains this month included education and healthcare services and manufacturing. Losses this month were dominated by leisure and hospitality (-1,100). This super sector pared jobs in virtually all segments, although losses in accommodations and food services slightly outweighed losses in arts and entertainment.  All other losses were small in nature and included finance and insurance, other services, and information services.

Annually, manufacturing continues to advance stretching back to last year. The sector’s growth of 11,000 jobs is more than half of Iowa’s combined total nonfarm employment gain. Construction continues to improve in 2018 following a flat year last year. This sector hovers 5,200 jobs higher than last August. Professional and business services and financial activities also continue to bolster payrolls and are up 2,500 and 2,200 jobs, respectively. Annual losses have been limited to just two sectors: other services (-2,600) and information (-200).

MEDIA ALERT:  To access an audio cut of comments about Iowa's labor market situation click here. Local data for August will be posted to the IWD website on Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Statewide data for September 2018 will be released on Friday, October 19, 2018.

Employment and Unemployment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
        Change from
  August July August July August
  2018 2018 2017 2018 2017
Civilian labor force 1,685,200 1,684,200 1,677,700 1,000 7,500
Unemployment 42,800 44,000 51,100 -1,200 -8,300
Unemployment rate 2.5% 2.6% 3.0% -0.1 -0.5
Employment 1,642,500 1,640,300 1,626,700 2,200 15,800
U.S. unemployment rate 3.9% 3.9% 4.4% 0.0 -0.5
Nonfarm Employment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
Total Nonfarm Employment 1,593,300 1,591,000 1,572,200 2,300 21,100
Mining 2,400 2,400 2,300 0 100
Construction 80,000 78,900 74,800 1,100 5,200
Manufacturing 226,700 226,500 215,700 200 11,000
Trade, transportation and utilities 314,400 312,800 314,400 1,600 0
Information 21,800 22,000 22,000 -200 -200
Financial activities 111,500 111,900 109,300 -400 2,200
Professional and business services 141,800 141,700 139,300 100 2,500
Education and health services 233,000 232,600 231,600 400 1,400
Leisure and hospitality 143,500 144,600 142,700 -1,100 800
Other services 54,900 55,300 57,500 -400 -2,600
Government 263,300 262,300 262,600 1,000 700
 (above data subject to revision)          


Unemployment Insurance Claims for Iowa
        % Change from
  August July August July August
  2018 2018 2017 2018 2017
Initial claims 8,096 11,583 8,659 -30.1% -6.5%
Continued claims          
     Number of claimants 18,706 20,025 21,307 -6.6% -12.2%
     Weeks paid 65,493 58,680 76,942 11.6% -14.9%
     Amount paid $23,898,854 $21,092,634 $27,873,073 13.3% -14.3%