Iowa's Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.7 Percent in September

Iowa Workforce Development Communications
For Immediate Release
Date: October 20, 2020
Contact: Molly Elder
Telephone: 515-725-4116

Printer Friendly Version

Iowa's Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.7 Percent in September

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in September. The state’s jobless rate was 2.8 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September.

“September is the fifth consecutive month we have seen a drop in unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic and peak unemployment in April,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “We have over 64,000 job openings across the state. Additionally, we have awarded over $10 million in grants focused on helping those whose jobs have been affected get back into the workplace by completing short term training or starting a registered apprenticeship program. Details are available at

The number of unemployed Iowans declined to 76,600 in September. The current estimate is 111,400 lower than the Covid-19 peak in April of 188,000 and 27,900 higher than the year ago level of 48,700.  

The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,536,200 in September. This figure was 11,600 higher than April and 166,300 lower than one year ago.

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Total nonfarm employment advanced by 7,300 jobs in September, lifting the total number of jobs to 1,499,500. The gain this month is the fifth-consecutive since April and more than expected following a much smaller increase of 4,500 in August. Service industries took another step towards recovery this month with gains in leisure and hospitality along with retail. Goods producing industries showed little overall movement with sluggishness in construction offsetting hiring in manufacturing industries. Government added 2,400 jobs due to local government education ramping up as students return to in-person classes. This monthly increase leaves government down just 2.3 percent versus last year. Total nonfarm employment overall is down 5.4 percent compared to one year ago.

Leisure and hospitality gained the most jobs in September (+4,100) and was predominantly filled by eating and drinking establishments. The gain was an improvement over the much smaller increase of 1,400 in August. Manufacturing added jobs for the fifth-consecutive month (+2,100) with hiring nearly even between durable and non-durable goods factories. Trade and transportation advanced by 1,600 due mostly to hiring in retail trade (+1,000). The increase was a nice recovery following a loss of 1,100 in August. Job losses in September were led by construction which shed 2,500 jobs and has only increased once in the last eight months. The only other significant loss was within professional and business services (-500). The loss this month was fueled by layoffs in administrative support and waste management services.

Over the past five months, 104,000 jobs have been added back by Iowa businesses, equating to a gain of 7.5 percent in total nonfarm employment. Leisure and hospitality still has some ground to make up, but has added the most jobs during that span (+47,200 or 66.1 percent). Government has gained 16,100 jobs due mostly to schools returning to in-person classes. Retail trade has been able to adapt and recover, particularly within grocery and general merchandise establishments and has added 15,600 jobs over the past five months. While most sectors have added jobs since April, those sectors not faring as well are construction (-3,500) and transportation and warehousing (-1,000).

Unemployment Insurance Claims

The total number of initial claims trended down in September by 503 (-2.2 percent) versus August and have now fallen 134,410 (-85 percent) versus the peak of 157,300 five months ago. For continued claims, most statistics have been reduced to approximately 40 percent of the April levels. The number of claimants dropped by 23.1 percent from last month and are down 109,921 over the prior five months. The weeks paid dropped to 257,231 in September, less than half of the 652,623 paid in April, while the total amount paid to claimants fell to $84.5 million, less than half of the $213.5 million paid five months ago.

MEDIA ALERT:  Statewide data for October 2020 will be released on Friday, November 20, 2020. Local data for October 2020 will be posted to the IWD website on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.

Employment and Unemployment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
        Change from
  September April September April September
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Civilian labor force 1,612,800 1,712,600 1,751,200 -99,800 -138,400
Unemployment 76,600 188,000 48,700 -111,400 27,900
Unemployment rate 4.7% 11.0% 2.8% -6.3 1.9
Employment 1,536,200 1,524,600 1,702,500 11,600 -166,300
U.S. unemployment rate 7.9% 14.7% 3.5% -6.8 4.4
Nonfarm Employment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
Total Nonfarm Employment 1,499,500 1,395,500 1,584,900 104,000 -85,400
Mining 2,000 2,200 2,500 -200 -500
Construction 66,600 70,100 78,200 -3,500 -11,600
Manufacturing 220,300 212,300 225,600 8,000 -5,300
Trade, transportation and utilities 300,700 287,900 309,600 12,800 -8,900
Information 19,400 19,600 20,900 -200 -1,500
Financial activities 107,700 107,800 110,000 -100 -2,300
Professional and business services 130,300 123,800 138,700 6,500 -8,400
Education and health services 224,700 212,500 235,200 12,200 -10,500
Leisure and hospitality 118,600 71,400 144,300 47,200 -25,700
Other services 54,100 48,900 58,700 5,200 -4,600
Government 255,100 239,000 261,200 16,100 -6,100
 (above data subject to revision)          


Unemployment Insurance Claims for Iowa
        % Change from
  September April September April September
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Initial claims 22,890 157,324 7,611 -85.5% 200.7%
Continued claims          
     Number of claimants 72,738 182,659 15,782 -60.2% 360.9%
     Weeks paid 257,231 652,623 47,067 -60.6% 446.5%
     Amount paid $84,483,435 $213,451,863 $18,725,251 -60.4% 351.2%