An eastern Iowa economist says the latest data shows job growth in Iowa is better than it’s been in 16 years.
Economist David Osterberg, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, says from January through the end of May, there’s been a gain of about 3500 non-farm jobs per month. “We tend to look at the longer term,” Osterberg says. “We don’t look at unemployment rate as much as we do at job growth, but now looking at five months of this, we’re cautiously optimistic.”
That pace of job growth hasn’t been recorded in Iowa since 1994. “If you look at the job creation in the first five months of the year, it’s rather boisterous,” Osterberg says. “…Back in the 1990s when there were a lot of jobs and things were going well, we were ‘making’ about 3000 jobs a month, so this is above that pace.”
Osterberg is sounding a note of caution, however, because there were job losses in manufacturing; trade and transportation; education and health services last month. “All of those sectors were not doing real well (in May) and there was this artificial, I guess, increase because of Census workers,” Osterberg says. “But those government jobs were off-set by the fact that the state is shedding government jobs.”
During the month of May, the number of workers in Iowa who were employed by the government rose by 2600. State officials say that increase was fueled by the temporary federal workers hired to conduct the Census. Over 500 jobs in state government were cut in May. By June 24th, over 2200 state workers will have opted to retire early, another reduction in the state workforce. Some of those individuals retired in May; some retired in June. According to Osterberg, there may be more state government layoffs in July when the new state budget year begins. That means if there’s job growth in the coming months to rival that pace of job creation from January through May, Osterberg says it will be spurred by the private sector.