Iowa's Unemployment Rate Increases to 3.7 Percent in March

Iowa Workforce Development Communications
For Immediate Release
Date: April 17, 2020
Contact: Molly Elder
Telephone: 515-725-4116

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Iowa's Unemployment Rate Increases to 3.7 Percent in March

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.7 percent in March. The state’s jobless rate was 2.7 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent in March.

“The unemployment rate in March only reflects the very beginning of the impact of the substantial increase in unemployment claims we have seen since March 16th, however the more reflective month will be April,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “While there were more unemployed than March 2019, there were 1.67 million Iowans employed last month. The more Iowans who remain employed throughout should help reduce the economic impact and hopefully assist in a faster recovery period when the economy begins to reopen. There are dozens of employers looking for workers now and those who are temporarily unemployed are encouraged to check these out at:

The number of unemployed Iowans jumped to 63,500 in March from 49,300 in February. The current estimate is 16,700 higher than the year ago level of 46,800. 

The total number of working Iowans decreased to 1,665,300 in March. This figure was 38,100 less than February and 12,300 lower than one year ago. 

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Total nonfarm employment in Iowa shed 3,500 jobs in March. While some decline in payrolls was anticipated this month, the majority of the loss associated with efforts to contain the Coronavirus will not be evident until April’s estimates. Private service industries continue to trend down in Iowa’s economy and have shed a combined 5,600 jobs over the past twelve months. Goods-producing sectors trail last year’s mark (-1,900) due to durable goods factories trimming staff over uncertainty. Government shed jobs in March (-400), yet remains up slightly versus last March (+400).

Accommodation and food services posted the biggest movement in March—a loss of 1,600 jobs. This was an early symptom of firms laying off staff early in response to the Coronavirus.  This sector had fared well stretching back to last summer and is still up 800 jobs versus last year. Health care pared jobs in March (-1,100) with many of the jobs lost being in social assistance and medical offices. Durable goods manufacturing again trimmed jobs in March (-800). This drop is the fourth in the last five months, but the decline is partially offset by a gain of 400 jobs in nondurable goods shops. Retail trade shed 200 jobs, although staffing levels are expected to drop in April as many non-essential businesses furlough employees. Small gains this month included construction (+200), financial activities (+200), and professional and business services (+100), which saw hiring in administrative and support services being hindered by cutbacks in professional, scientific, and technical services.

Over the past twelve months, Iowa has lost 7,100 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities has shed 4,100 jobs with transportation and warehousing trimming the most jobs (-2,400). There is evidence that this sector should increase over the next few years thanks to new warehousing and distribution industries arriving in the state and increasing consumer reliance on delivered goods. Manufacturing is down 3,100 jobs with all of the loss being centered in durable goods shops. Annual growth has been highest in other services (+1,700) and construction (+1,400).

MEDIA ALERT:  Local data for March 2020 will be posted to the IWD website on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.  Statewide data for April 2020 will be released on Friday, May 22, 2020.

Employment and Unemployment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
        Change from
  March February March February March
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Civilian labor force 1,728,800 1,752,600 1,724,300 -23,800 4,500
Unemployment 63,500 49,300 46,800 14,200 16,700
Unemployment rate 3.7% 2.8% 2.7% 0.9 1.0
Employment 1,665,300 1,703,400 1,677,600 -38,100 -12,300
U.S. unemployment rate 4.4% 3.5% 3.8% 0.9 0.6
Nonfarm Employment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
Total Nonfarm Employment 1,577,800 1,581,300 1,584,900 -3,500 -7,100
Mining 2,400 2,500 2,600 -100 -200
Construction 78,200 78,000 76,800 200 1,400
Manufacturing 223,200 223,600 226,300 -400 -3,100
Trade, transportation and utilities 307,100 307,300 311,200 -200 -4,100
Information 20,400 20,600 21,700 -200 -1,300
Financial activities 110,300 110,100 109,700 200 600
Professional and business services 137,300 137,200 139,300 100 -2,000
Education and health services 233,700 234,700 235,400 -1,000 -1,700
Leisure and hospitality 144,700 146,300 143,500 -1,600 1,200
Other services 59,300 59,400 57,600 -100 1,700
Government 261,200 261,600 260,800 -400 400
(above data subject to revision)          


Unemployment Insurance Claims for Iowa
        % Change from
  March February March February March
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Initial claims 126,040 9,747 9,685 1193.1% 1201.4%
Continued claims          
     Number of claimants 46,383 35,887 35,571 29.2% 30.4%
     Weeks paid 122,636 123,936 117,730 -1.0% 4.2%
     Amount paid $49,038,061 $51,706,748 $47,763,210 -5.2% 2.7%