Iowa's Unemployment Rate Remains at 2.8 Percent in February

Iowa Workforce Development Communications
For Immediate Release
Date: March 27, 2020
Contact: Molly Elder
Telephone: 515-725-4116

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Iowa's Unemployment Rate Remains at 2.8 Percent in February

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.8 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was 2.7 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly to 3.5 percent in February.

"Because of the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data, we do not expect the COVID-19 numbers to have an impact on our unemployment rate until April.  The April unemployment rate will be released in mid-May.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics may change this but it is where we are now.  Therefore, the February and March rates are not indicative of where we are now as a result of the recent outbreak.  We continue to encourage employers to utilize as many employees as possible and use alternative methods to allow them to work during this challenging time," said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development.

The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 49,300 in February from 49,700 in January.  The current estimate is 3,000 higher than the year ago level of 46,300. 

The total number of working Iowans decreased to 1,703,500 in February. This figure was 1,500 less than January and 28,600 higher than one year ago. 

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Iowa businesses again reduced payrolls in February, losing 1,200 jobs versus last month. This February contraction is not related to the recent Corona virus, but simply a symptom of reduced activity within goods-producing sectors. Overall, construction and manufacturing combined to shed 1,200 jobs. Service industries were unchanged with private sector losses being exactly matched by slim government increases. Although there is evidence of the state’s economy tightening, government has been hiring more staff recently and is now up 2,600 jobs versus last year’s level; private industry trails by 4,000 jobs.

Construction shed the most jobs in February following some gains over the prior two months. Even with this monthly loss, this sector has gained 1,000 jobs over the past twelve months. Much of this gain has been evident in the Des Moines metro which is up almost 2,000 jobs annually. Trade, transportation, and utilities trended down this month fueled primarily by a loss in transportation and warehousing (-1,000). Although this sector hasn’t performed well recently, this industry should see improvement as the year progresses and consumers become more dependent on delivered goods. Professional and business services continued to pare jobs in February (-400). This super sector has steadily reduced payrolls the past two years with most of the losses stemming from administrative support and waste management. Alternatively, financial sectors hired in February (+500) following a gain of 900 jobs last month. Education and health care also added jobs (+400). Gains were evenly split between both sectors.

Compared to last February, Iowa has shed 1,400 jobs. Those sectors which have trended down the most are trade, transportation, and utilities (-2,900); professional and business services (-2,900); and manufacturing (-2,200) which is showing signs of scale-down within durable goods. Non-durable goods factories have been helped by job gains in food manufacturing. Those sectors performing well over the past twelve months are leisure and hospitality (+3,000) and other services (+2,100).

MEDIA ALERT:  Local data for February 2020 will be posted to the IWD website on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.  Statewide data for March 2020 will be released on Friday, April 17, 2020.

Employment and Unemployment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
        Change from
  February January February January February
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Civilian labor force 1,752,800 1,754,700 1,721,200 -1,900 31,600
Unemployment 49,300 49,700 46,300 -400 3,000
Unemployment rate 2.8% 2.8% 2.7% 0.0 0.1
Employment 1,703,500 1,705,000 1,674,900 -1,500 28,600
U.S. unemployment rate 3.5% 3.6% 3.8% -0.1 -0.3
Nonfarm Employment in Iowa, Seasonally Adjusted Data
Total Nonfarm Employment 1,583,800 1,585,000 1,585,200 -1,200 -1,400
Mining 2,400 2,400 2,500 0 -100
Construction 78,200 79,200 77,200 -1,000 1,000
Manufacturing 223,700 223,900 225,900 -200 -2,200
Trade, transportation and utilities 308,200 309,000 311,100 -800 -2,900
Information 20,700 20,800 21,800 -100 -1,100
Financial activities 110,200 109,700 109,600 500 600
Professional and business  services 137,100 137,500 140,000 -400 -2,900
Education and health services 234,900 234,500 236,400 400 -1,500
Leisure and hospitality 146,600 146,500 143,600 100 3,000
Other services 59,500 59,600 57,400 -100 2,100
Government 262,300 261,900 259,700 400 2,600
 (above data subject to revision)          


Unemployment Insurance Claims for Iowa
        % Change from
  February January February January February
  2020 2020 2019 2020 2019
Initial claims 9,747 17,461 9,665 -44.2% 0.8%
Continued claims          
     Number of claimants 35,887 45,288 38,000 -20.8% -5.6%
     Weeks paid 123,936 155,697 129,440 -20.4% -4.3%
     Amount paid $51,706,748 $63,334,313 $52,403,981 -18.4% -1.3%