The state’s unemployment rate “held steady” for August at 6.8 percent, the same as the previous month’s. Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Workforce Development agency, says there’s been a sort of “holding pattern” for the past four months when it comes to the state’s job picture.
“It’s really due to the fact that while the recession is basically over, it’s still very slow out there for employers to be rehiring. Consumer spending is still not all the way back up and it’s kind of the chicken-before-the-egg thing,” Koonce says. “Employers want consumers to be spending to need more products before they hire people. People want to have jobs before they have a lot of money to be spending.”
About 1200 people were hired to work in the state’s manufacturing sector in August. “And that’s an important area where Iowa needs to recover because that was some of our hardest losses during the recession overall,” Koonce says.
The largest gains, though, have been in professional and business services, where about 8700 jobs have been added. “One of the large areas within that is temp agencies and whenever you’re starting to come out of a recession, you see a lot of increased hiring in those areas,” Koonce says. “Companies will use temp workers once in a while first, before they bring on full-time, to be sure their capacity is where they need it to be.”
Economists believe the recession ended in June of 2009 — more than a year ago — but the national unemployment rate for August was reported at 9.6 percent and there were about a thousand more unemployed Iowans in August compared to July.
There are pockets of the state where unemployment is quite low. Lyon County in northwest Iowa, for example, has the lowest figure, at just under four percent unemployment. But some counties in the state are struggling due to recent job losses at major employers.
“Montgomery County down in southwest Iowa is at 10.3 percent,” Koonce says. “They had a recent lay-off that was announced publicly of CDS Global that really affected that county.” Red Oak is the county seat of Montgomery County.
The Ottumwa area — Wapello County — has an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. “Lee County, down in the bottom southeast part of the state, is at 10.8 (percent unemployment) and that’s an area that always struggles with high unemployment. They’ve really had a lot of changes in the last 10 years in their industry base,” Koonce says. “They were heavy manufacturing. They’ve lost a lot of that. They’ve brought some new employers in, but it just hasn’t recovered.”
According to Koonce, most of the job losses in Iowa in August were in government. Since last year, more than 7000 Iowans who had jobs at various levels of government have either been laid off or retired and weren’t replaced.