The unemployment rate has dropped every month this year and April was no exception. Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson Kerry Koonce, says,”We’re down to 5.1%, and that makes Iowa 3 percentage points below the national average which is at 8.1% for April. We were at 5.9% this time last year, so we’ve seen a significant drop in our unemployment rate.”
The job growth continues to offset the job loses in the state, with a gain of 5,800 jobs in April. “A large portion of those, 3,700, were in the construction and manufacturing industry,” Koonce says, “which is very good because its adding it in what we call the durable goods, long term goods, not disposable goods, which is a good sign that the economy is continuing to improve.”
The transportation industry continues to see job losses. “Overall we lost about 1,100 jobs in the trade and transportation area, those being heavily in transportation. The higher gas prices are still keeping the transportation industry a little sluggish. And then retail trade continues to see its ups and downs,” Koonce explains.
“And then we lost a couple hundred jobs in the leisure and hospitality area, but those were the major changes.” There’s been a lot of talk on the national level about the number of people who have given up looking for work and the fact that they are not included in the national unemployment numbers.
Koonce says people in that category are hard to track, and there’s some confusion about the make up of the workforce. “You don’t have to be receiving unemployment benefits to considered unemployed and looking for work. That sometimes is a misconception. For example, we have about 85-thousand people who are unemployed right now, but only about 45-50-thousand that are getting unemployment benefits,” Koonce says.
“And so you don’t have to be receiving benefits to be considered unemployed. But once you stop looking for work, you are not consider part of the labor force anymore. So that makes it very hard to put an actual number on what we call the discourage worker syndrome.”
Koonce says some of the people who dropped out of the workforce have come back in as the economy has improved. “Our labor force is growing, which is an indication that people who may’ve been a discouraged worker are coming back into it as well. They’re seeing the positive signs out there and are coming back in and looking for work as well,” according to Koonce.
The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,578,200 in April compared to 1,575,700 in March.