The state’s unemployment rate is up, again — reaching heights not seen since the “Farm Crisis” of the 1980s. The unemployment rate in Iowa in July was 6.5 percent. It hasn’t been that high since October of 1986.
Kerry Koonce of the Iowa Workforce Development agency says comparable unemployment data goes back to the early 1970s. “The highest we’ve ever been is 8.5 percent and that was for the first five months of 1983,” Koonce says. “It kind of stayed level there for a little bit and slowly began to edge down.”
The state’s unemployment rate two months ago, in June, was 6.2 percent. The July jobless figure jumped three-tenths of a percent. “Obviously, Iowa’s still seeing some layoffs in industries across the state, particularly still in our manufacturing — we still lost 4800 jobs from last month,” she says, “so that’s having an effect on it.”
According to Koonce, the “civilian labor force” in Iowa is shrinking. “Which means people are falling out of the labor force. That can come from a variety of reasons. It can be they’ve left or to be counted in the labor force you either have to be employed or unemployed and looking for work,” Koonce says. “And you sometimes get into what we call the discouraged job seeker where they are unemployed and have stopped looking for work and that counts in and removes them from the labor force.”
In July of 2008, the statewide unemployment rate was significantly lower, at 4.1 percent. Koonce, from Workforce Development, says they don’t have county-by-county unemployment data yet, but they are able to analyze some of the layoffs in the manufacturing sector of the state economy.
“We’re seeing a lot of layoffs of 100 here and 100 there,” Koonce says. “And we’re also seeing a lot of companies that do temporary layoffs where they may layoff a group of their employees for six weeks and then bring them back to work for six weeks and then off for six weeks.”
Koonce says there were some sectors of the economy which seem to be bouncing back. “We did add 600 jobs in construction for the last month which is good. That’s something that we’ve been looking to see,” she says. “We also added jobs in the financial activities and in the professional and businesses services sectors.”
The national unemployment rate for July was 9.4 percent, down a smidgen from June.