Iowa’s unemployment rate has dropped below 6% for the first time in more than two years. Kerry Koonce is a spokesperson for the Iowa Workforce Development agency, which today released numbers for the month of November. She says the state’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.7% last month, down from 6.0% in October.
The large drop in the November unemployment rate was fueled by further expansion of Iowa’s manufacturing sector and thousands of Iowans finding jobs. “We’ve had two months in a row now where our unemployed numbers are below 100,000. That’s very good. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen those numbers as well,” Koonce said. Manufacturing added 1,100 jobs between October and November and 7,900 jobs over the last year.
The statewide estimate of unemployed persons fell to 95,000 in November, down from 103,100 one year ago. Koonce said it’s too soon to declare a complete recovery from the recession. “We like to measure it by quarter,” Koonce explained. “So, if we could see three months of unemployment going down and employment numbers going up, that would be a good benchmark to say the Iowa economy is showing better signs of recovery.”
Job gains have been posted for seven of the first eleven months of 2011 in Iowa. The education and health services sector has accounted for 5,100 jobs over the past year. “It’s really the health and medical side that’s seen the strong growth,” Koonce said.
Financial activities added 600 jobs between October and November, while trade and transportation also advanced by 600. “I think it’s important to know that our trade, transportation and utilities industry has stayed very strong,” Koonce said. “Those are kind of the backbones of business and when those stay strong, that’s another positive sign.”
The biggest job losses in Iowa in November occurred in leisure and hospitality (1,900 jobs lost) with the bulk of the losses in recreation and leisure activities. Professional and business services cut 1,300 positions with almost half of the losses concentrated in scientific, technical and professional services.
The U.S. unemployment rate for November hit 8.6% – down from 9.0% in October.