Iowa’s unemployment rate fell in February to 3.5 percent. Ann Wagner of Iowa Workforce Development says it’s the second consecutive month there’s been a decline in Iowa’s jobless rate. Wagner estimates there about 59,000 unemployed Iowans today.
More than one-and-a-half million people were working in Iowa in February. Wagner says there were job fluctuations in many sectors of the Iowa economy. Some of the industries hit by what many consider a national recession recorded job losses.
About 600 fewer Iowans were employed in the retail sector and 300 lost their jobs in Iowa’s leisure and hospitality industries in February. The biggest job losses were in construction, while there were job gains in the financial sector as well as in education, health care, manufacturing and government.
"Right now we are running counter to the national trend. We’re still in pretty good standing with the exception of the construction industry," Wagner says. "The other industry that’s hurting very much at the national level — finance — we seem to be very solid in. Again, we had a gain of over 300 (jobs in the financial sector) over the month and looking at February compared to a year ago, we’ve actually gained 1800 jobs in finance."
According to Wagner, Iowa’s financial firms were never "major players" in subprime lending which has caused such headaches for other firms. Among Iowa’s 99 counties, Jasper County has the highest countywide unemployment rate at 8 percent. Johnson County — the Iowa City area — has the lowest, at 2.6 percent. "If you look at the state overall, the low unemployment rates are clustered in northwest Iowa and in the central part of the state," Wagner says.
Just over 14,000 Iowa workers filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits in February.