Iowa is following a national trend toward lower initial claims for unemployment benefits, but the number of unemployed Iowans is still much higher than it’s been during normal economic times. Joe Bervid of the Iowa Workforce Development agency says for the last four weeks of 2009, the number of Iowans making first-time unemployment claims fell below what it was the year before.

“While these figures are encouraging in terms of stabilizing and improving, clearly we are not anywhere near the number of claims we would have…for an average year.” During the last four weeks of 2009, 46,000 Iowans made their first application for unemployment benefits. Nationwide, the number of newly-laid off workers filing for unemployment in December dropped to the lowest levels since July of 2008.

“We’re not out of the woods by any means. It’s probably going to probably be a long process to get there,” Bervid says. “It simply means that things are starting to look like they’re getting a little better.” Bervid is legal counsel for the Iowa Workforce Development agency.

A Creighton University report released Monday predicts some job growth in Iowa in the first half of 2010. But Creighton economics professor Ernie Goss says “manufacturing job growth will be nil.”