Governor Tom Vilsack is disputing the latest unemployment numbers from his own Workforce Development agency. Last week, the state Workforce Development agency reported the January unemployment rate for Iowa was 5.1 percent, up a tenth of a percent from December. But yesterday, Governor Vilsack claimed the unemployment rate had NOT gone up. Vilsack maintained you can’t compare the numbers one month to the next because there’s a new system for calculating the unemployment rate. And the governor dismissed the idea that Iowa’s economy is dipping again.”It seems to me as if we’re still creating jobs in this economy…if you look at the total number of employed people,” Vilsack says. “I don’t think you can suggest that we’re backsliding at all.” Ann Wagner, an analyst for the Workforce Development agency, does not dispute the idea that Iowa’s economy is improving, but she says her agency DID compare apples to apples when it comes to the unemployment rate. The agency’s using a new formula to calculate the jobless figure, but has re-calculated the old rates so comparisons CAN be made, and you’d have to go back to 1988 to find an unemployment rate as high as 5.1 percent. Wagner says they’ve gone back to 1976 to recalculate the rates based on the new formula so accurate comparisons can be made. According to Wagner, one reason the unemployment rates HAS gone up is because people who had dropped out of the job market have jumped back in. “In the latter part of 2004, employers started to hire again. The word got out and that’s attracting more job-seekers back into the labor market and consequently, it’s raising the unemployment rate,” Wagner says.
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