After dropping each of the first four months of this year, the Iowa unemployment rate held steady in May at 5.1%. Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, says the rate didn’t drop again as the state lost 3,300 jobs in May.
“The overwhelming area where we lost jobs was in the administrative and support services within the professional and technical sector. And that was about 1,700 jobs. The next area we lost was in trade and transportation, and most of that was in the retail and wholesale area,” according to Koonce.
Koonce says the May rate looks good when compared to last year. “That’s significantly down from where we were a year ago when we were at 6%, and nationally the rate is still hovering in the low eight’s at 8.2% for May,” she says. Workforce Development figures show the state added 13,400 jobs — 10,900 of those in manufacturing — from May of last year to May of this year.
Koonce says the lack of movement up or down in unemployment for one month doesn’t indicate a trend. She says you get a better idea of where things are going by looking at the quarterly numbers.
“So we’ll need another couple of months to see what’s going on, but most likely we’re just kind of leveling out here for a little while. That wouldn’t be surprising at this time, because we have continued to drop,” Koonce says.
“We’ll watch the job gains and losses. It’s not unusual to lose jobs and gain jobs back and forth in the professional and technical areas as you are coming out of a recession. We still saw rather large gains in the leisure and hospitality area, which is typical of this time of year. And then we saw them in the health and both the information technology and the government sectors as well.”
Koonce says the unemployment numbers are also impacted by people who quit looking for jobs, and then start again. “It’s a change in the size of your labor force because the unemployment rate is driven by the size of your labor force. And you see those back and forth and you are going to see that continually as you come through a recession,” Koonce says.
“This recession that we came through has really hit every industry, unlike the large one that we saw in the 1980’s that was focused more in agriculture and manufacturing, this one really hit everywhere. And it takes longer to come out of those.”
The number of unemployed Iowans was reported at 85,200 in May, which was up slightly from the April level of 85,000. That estimate compares with 99,100 unemployed one year ago.