March 29, 2015

State unemployment rate drops again in February

Workforce-Development-signThe state’s unemployment rate continues on its downward trend with February dropping down to 4.1-percent from January’s rate of 4.2-percent.

Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, says it’s the fifth straight month with a drop. “We continue to see drops in the number of people who are unemployed. We are down 4,000 from a year ago for the number of people who are unemployed,” Koonce says. “And our number of people who are actually receiving unemployment insurance is down almost 12,000 from last month as well.”

The number of unemployed dropped, even though the state lost some jobs in the month, the first decline in jobs since September. “We dropped 400 jobs, which isn’t very big. Most of that being in the trade, transportation and utilities area. We saw a larger growth in that last month than really was expects, so I think that was just some leveling out,” according to Koonce.

Several areas did add jobs. “We saw nice growth in manufacturing, nice growth in education and health services — so those really helped the state as well,” Koonce says. Workforce Development figures show manufacturing added 1,200 jobs, the education and health care areas increased jobs fueled entirely by gains in private education of one-thousand jobs.

The number of unemployed Iowans dropped to 70,100 in February from 71,800 in January. Koonce says warmer weather should lead to more job gains. “Because you will have a lot of those people who are on temporary unemployment coming back to work. And we saw some gains in construction this month, the biggest gains are coming in industrial, which is good, because that shows overall growth,” Koonce says.

The national unemployment rate was 5.5-percent in February.


State population grows for 26th straight year

Census Bureau map of county populations.

Census Bureau map of county populations.

The U.S. Census Bureau released estimates Thursday showing Iowa’s population has increased by two percent since 2010. Gary Krob is the coordinator of the State Data Center program at the State Library.

“What we’re seeing in the state of Iowa is slow and steady growth, and the growth is continuing to be in the metropolitan and micropolitan counties versus some of the rural counties,” Krob says. While the population grew only by about 60,000 in those 4 years, Krob says it is growth and not loss in population.

“We have had slow growth since 1988, so 26 years of growth in our state,” Krob says. “Sometimes I think that gets overlooked when we start looking at some of the smaller communities and people moving out of some of the smaller counties. But the state as whole has actually been growing in population for 28 years.” The Census Bureau says it is Iowa’s longest period of sustained population growth since 1900. The state’s growth continues to be centered around the larger cities.

“We saw growth in 31 counties in Iowa, out of those 31 counties, only one county, Lyon county is not in or adjacent to a metropolitan or micropolitan area. So the growth we are seeing in Iowa is primarily in urban areas,” according to Krob.

Three Iowa metropolitan areas were among the nation’s 100 fastest growing metros between 2010 and 2014, according to the Census information. The Iowa City, Des Moines-West Des Moines, and Ames metropolitan areas ranked 31st, 32nd, and 82nd in growth respectively. A central Iowa county on the edge of Des Moines and its suburbs was again among the fastest growing in the state and nation.

“Dallas County was the 17th fastest growing county in the United States this year, it was actually 13th if you look at population in counties with at least 10-thousand people,” Krob explains. Dallas County grew by 17-percent since the 2010 census and added 11,263 residents for a total population of 77,400. More than 58 percent of Iowa residents now live in the state’s twenty-one metropolitan counties, up from over 53 percent after the 2000 census.

Krob says the numbers track the domestic migration, or people moving in from others states, and international migration, or people moving into Iowa from other countries. “We have a slight negative domestic migration — we lost about 4,000 people with domestic migration — but that number is a lot lower than we saw in the last decade,” Krob says. “We have very high international migration, so we see a lot of people moving into Iowa from other countries.”

Between 2010 and 2014 the numbers show Iowa gained 21,447 residents from other nations. Births, another factor in population growth, were slightly ahead of deaths in the state. Krob says

“State estimates were released last December…and we’re kind of in the middle of the pack when you look at the midwest as a whole. There were states that definitely grew at a faster rate than we did, but there were also states that didn’t grow as much ass we did since 2010,” Krob says.

You can see more on the new population estimates on the State Library’s State Data Center website at:


UNI hosts emergency response fair

UNI-President-008The University of Northern Iowa held the first ever emergency response fair sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency today on the campus in Cedar Falls. FEMA Region Seven spokesperson David Gervino says UNI is a good place for the so-called Ready Campus event.

“We just supply some best practices and ideas for the event — but it’s the university that brings their partners together — and I think you can tell by all the partners represented here today that the university already has very good existing relationships with community organizations,” Gervino says.

The event includes representatives from one dozen public safety organizations including the Red Cross, National Guard, Iowa State Patrol and Homeland Security. UNI Global Health professor, Michele Devlin, says the daylong event provides a chance for interaction in a nonemergency environment.

“Students have had a chance to wander around and actually meet with working professionals in the disaster relief field and talk to them about jobs, talk to them about volunteer opportunities, and ways that they can get more involved for purposes of their career,” Devlin says.

UNI is working toward the development of a Bachelors of Applied Science Degree in Emergency Services. Devlin says they hope to have that accomplished in about a year.


Senator Ernst backs plan to keep troops in Afghanistan

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says she supports President Barrack Obama’s revised timetable to keep more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “The president and I don’t often agree on many things, but this is one that I am very grateful that the president has taken a good, hard look at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan,” Ernst says.

Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, says the U.S. troops are still needed for support. “We need to ensure that they are able to carry the burden of protecting their homeland when we leave,” Ernst says. She says military leaders and the president of Afghanistan says they are working on becoming a self-supporting, self-sufficient country, but they are not quite there yet.

Ernst, who is also a member of the Iowa National Guard, says there could be problems if the U.S. support is pulled too soon. “What we want to avoid is creating a void or a vacuum in Afghanistan just as we did in Iraq,” Ernst says. “The country of Afghanistan is still vulnerable. We want to make sure that they can adequately cover down when our forces leave.” President Obama announced the U.S. would keep nearly 10-thousand troops in Afghanistan through 2015, almost double his original plan.


U-I presidential search committee chair tabbed as interim president

Bruce Rastetter

Bruce Rastetter

The committed assigned to help find the replacement for retiring University of Iowa president Sally Mason met for the first time Wednesday. U-I vice president for medical affairs, Jean Robillard is the chair of the committee, and he talked about the expectations he’s hearing on the Iowa City campus.

“People want the university to renew itself. They want a person with relevant experience, but they want also the committee to have really an open mind and to cast a wide net to identify a candidate,” Robillard explains. “Their expectations is to be in the top ten of the public universities in this country. They want a charismatic leader who will excite the students and faculty and give a sense of pride to everyone, including the staff, about what this university is all about. They want somebody who is entrepreneurial as well,” Robillard says.

Robillard joked that when you add up all the things people are looking for in the new president, they want someone who can “walk on water, not just in the winter, but also in the summer.”

Mason is set to retire in August, and the committee plans to wait to hold interviews of the finalists on campus until everyone is back for the fall semester. Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter told the committee that will require the appointment of an interim president once Mason steps down. “Myself and president pro-tem Mullholland intend to recommend to the board of Regents at the April meeting, that Jean Robillard be appointed interim president when that happens. We think that’s an important part of the search, since he is chairing the search, that that be known ahead of time,” Rastetter says.

Rastetter says its key to have an interim president in place until the new president is found. “Because I think it’s really important that through this process there be a smooth transition,” Rastetter says. Rastetter says the board will conduct a large national advertising campaign to search for the new president. He also encouraged the members of the search committee to reach out to their contacts to seek the best possible candidate.

The Board of Regents has also hired a search firm to help with the process.


Monitoring continues for bird flu that has shown up in other states

chicken-pictureState officials are keeping an eye out for signs of a bird flu that has recently been discovered in other states. State Veterinarian David Schmitt says the influenza is highly pathogenic, or has a high death rate, particularly in turkeys and chickens.

“It first appeared in the northwest part of the United States in the Pacific Flyway in some commercial and backyard poultry that were affected. It’s now show up in the Mississippi Flyway here in the central states region — first in Minnesota and then a couple of turkey farms in Missouri, one in Arkansas, and then a backyard group of birds in Kansas,” Schmitt explains.

Schmitt says waterfowl carry different types of influenza across the country. “This one here happens to be an H5N2, it’s highly pathogenic, and birds in this flyway as in other flyways, they commingle in the northern countries and they can bring it back. And when they’re coming through they stop, and they can be shedding it in their feces,” Schmitt says.

There have been some samples taken of snowgeese in Iowa and so far the disease has not show up in the state. “That’s pretty exciting, because it means that hopefully everybody is doing their due diligence as far as in protecting their birds,” Schmitt says.

It’s an important issue to Iowa as the state is a leader in egg laying and a leader also in turkey production. Schmitt says he’s confident those industries are taking the proper steps to keep the disease away.

“In the state of Iowa, our commercial operations are very well in tune in as far as biosecurity operations,” according to Schmitt. “Certainly a lot of those have seen what’s going on and have even intensified and reviewed those biosecurity to make sure that it is not introduced into their populations of birds.”

He says the operations have had such biosecurity measures in place long before this outbreak in other states. The operations don’t allow visitors and those who come in cannot have any contact with birds in the last three days, and he says those who work in the facilities are not allow to own their own private birds. Schmitt says anyone who keeps chickens or other birds privately should take precautions.

“If you are walking through areas where wild waterfowl have been and you have a backyard population — its extremely important to change your shoes, make sure things are clean before you walk in with any poultry,” Schmitt says. Schmitt says the influenza cannot be transferred to humans and is not a health concern in that regard.


Mason City man sentenced to prison on meth charges

gavel-thumbnailA north Iowa man will spend more than 20 years in prison for selling meth. Thirty-two-year-old Christopher Lee Evenson of Mason City pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth and possession with intent to distribute meth in November of last year.

Evenson admitted to distributing pure meth after a vehicle he was riding in was stopped by police and they found more than 100 grams of meth under his seat. He admitted to selling approximately one pound of ice methamphetamine. Evenson was sentenced to 262 months in prison.