Iowa’s jobless rate increased one-tenth of a percent last month, rising to the highest level in nearly 24 years. Kerry Koonce is a spokesperson for the Iowa Workforce Development agency which tracks the unemployment numbers. She says Iowa’s unemployment rate hit 6.7% in February, up from 6.6% in January. It’s the highest unemployment rate in the state since the July 1986 rate of 6.8%.
Koonce says most sectors of the economy actually recorded job gains last month. One exception was leisure and hospitality, which shed 1,700 jobs. “We were still seeing increases in that category (in January) when we would have normally seen losses coming out of the holiday shopping season,” Koonce said. “So, we’re seeing those losses now. Those individuals held on a little bit longer than usual to those jobs.”
Despite the slight jump in unemployment, the total number of working Iowans actually grew by 200 people from January to February. Koonce believes that’s a sign of a rebounding economy. “While we added jobs in both January and February, which is positive, it’s going to take until probably the third quarter of 2010 before we really begin adding significant numbers of jobs and bring us back to the numbers with lost pre-recession,” Koonce said.
Iowa’s 6.7% unemployment rate is a full three percentage points lower than the U.S. jobless rate of 9.7%.
High/low county unemployment rates for February 2010:
Allamakee – 12%
Lee – 11.7%
Muscatine – 11.3%
Johnson – 4.8%
Lyon – 4.9%
Carroll – 5.1%