Iowa City and Ames have the lowest unemployment rates among the nation’s metropolitan areas according to new statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. Iowa City is tied with Houma, Louisiana for the nation’s lowest jobless rate at 3.6 percent.

Ames was next at 3.7 percent. State labor analyst Ann Wagner says even in those college towns, unemployment jumped almost a full percentage point in the last year.

"For all the metropolitan areas, even Ames and Iowa City, they’re up considerably over a year ago," Wagner said. "When you look at Ames, for March of 2008, (the jobless rate) was only 2.9%. When you go to Iowa City, the rate was only 2.8." Wagner says university towns are typically buffered from layoffs in durable goods manufacturing, which gave Dubuque the highest metro jobless rate in the state.

She credits layoffs at Deere and Company and other manufacturers for pushing Dubuque County’s unemployment rate to 6.5%. Manufacturing layoffs, meanwhile, have pushed unemployment up in rural areas. In Winnebago County, for instance, the jobless rate has climbed to 11.5%. Nationwide, some 18 U.S. metro areas now have unemployment rates of 155 or more.