A new report from the Iowa Policy Project, released just before Labor Day, shows declines in job quality and the number of workers in the state with employment based health coverage. Report co-author Colin Gordon says, over the last decade, Iowa has added roughly 100,000 new jobs. But, the state has lost 150,000 jobs that provide health care coverage.
"By our measure, the rate of job based (health) coverage in Iowa has collapsed from 75 percent in 1998, to barely half, 58 percent in 2007," Gordon said. He credits a shift in jobs from one sector to another. For example, Iowa has lost manufacturing jobs, which typically provide health coverage – while gaining jobs in retail and leisure and hospitality – that don’t often provide coverage.
"The second thing that’s happening is that – in each one of those individual sectors – regardless of the pattern of job growth, the rate of coverage has been collapsing over time," Gordon said. The report indicates three of the four job sectors where jobs declined from 2001 to 2007 were among the top-paying job sectors in the state.
Co-author Beth Pearson says that means young people, who are just graduating from college, are going to look outside of Iowa for better paying jobs."When these young adults are entering the workforce (in Iowa), they’re finding different jobs with lower wages than they would have 25 years ago," Pearson said. Gordon says Iowa legislators need to "aim higher" in efforts to attract businesses that pay higher wages.
In 2007, the median hourly wage for an Iowa worker stood at $14.30. That ranks sixth in the nine state region surrounding Iowa and is below the national average of $15.19. The full report is available online at the Iowa Policy Project website .