The annual “State of Working Iowa Report” from an eastern Iowa think tank concludes the state’s economic recovery has been “painfully slow.”

Noga O’Connor, a research associate with the Iowa City-based Iowa Policy Project, co-authored the report.

“We know that the state is doing better than the nation, but still we’re in much worse shape than we were before the recession hit,” O’Connor says. “So as far as unemployment, underemployment, job losses — all the measures that we traditionally look — we are still really struggling and have a long way to go to get back to where we were in 2007 or the first half of 2008.”

The number of unemployed Iowans has swelled and 33 percent of the Iowans who are currently unemployed have been out-of-work for more than half a year. O’Connor says “underemployment” has also grown to nearly 12 percent, as many Iowans have either taken a part-time job or dropped their search for a job altogether.

“Even once we gain the missing jobs, we are still — as far as wages — nowhere near where we used to be,” O’Connor says. “And the kinds of jobs that we are gaining seem to be lower-paying jobs, while the jobs that we have lost were the higher-paying jobs.”

The Iowa Policy Project found wage levels in 2010, when adjusted for inflation, were lower than they were a decade earlier in Iowa. 

“In several wage categories, we are at the very bottom nationally,” O’Connor says.

The Iowa Policy Project identifies what it calls a “jobs deficit” of 72,600 in the state and concludes Iowa’s economy would have to add 3000 jobs each month for the next three years in order to restore Iowa’s overall employment level to what it was in early 2008, when the recession began.