Iowa’s unemployment rate jumped from 4.4% in December to 4.8% in January. Kerry Koonce is a spokesperson for Iowa Workforce Development, which keeps track of the state’s jobless numbers.
She says the unemployment stood at 3.9% one year ago. In January, more Iowans were without a job, roughly 80,600, than anytime in over two decades. "It’s the first time, unfortunately, that we’ve surpassed the 80,000 mark since September of 1987," Koonce said.
It’s possible that the February report will show Iowa’s unemployment rate topping 5%. That hasn’t happened since the end of the farm crisis 21 years ago. "A lot of people are comparing this recession to the 1980s, but for Iowa, we had an unemployment rate of over 8% back then and we’re certainly not at that kind of a level (now)," Koonce said.
Over the past year, Iowa’s biggest job losses have come in the manufacturing sector – most notably at companies such as Deere and Company, Rockwell Collins and Winnebago Industries.
Koonce says Iowa lost nearly 12,000 manufacturing jobs between January 2008 and January 2009. That accounted for most of the 17,500 total job cuts in the state. The professional and business services sector trimmed 9,000 positions over the year, while construction cut 2,900 jobs.
Iowa did experience some areas of job growth. "Education and health services, predominantly health services, gained almost 4,000 jobs over the year. So, that helped offset some of those losses," Koonce said. Trade, transportation and utilities also added 1,500 jobs. From December to January, construction was one of the hardest hit sectors of Iowa’s economy.
The state lost 900 construction jobs over the month. "But, since Spring is coming, hopefully that (sector) will start to rebound," Koonce said. Iowa is receiving $2.1 billion from the federal stimulus package, which Koonce believes could help replace a large percentage of the job losses in both construction and manufacturing.