Iowa’s unemployment rate hit 5.3% in February, down from 5.4% in January and 6% one year ago. Kerry Koonce is a spokesperson for Iowa Workforce Development, which released the latest unemployment figures today.

“We dropped, in February,  for the first time since the recession really started,  to below 90,000 individuals unemployed in Iowa. We’re down to 88,500,” Koonce says. “That’s 11,000 lower than we were this time last year, so that’s very positive.”

Iowa’s manufacturing sector, with the addition of 100 jobs in February, has now added jobs over 20 consecutive months.  Koonce says that’s another sign of progress as manufacturing was hit the hardest by the recession. “We’ve added 11,000 jobs in manufacturing since this time last year,” Koonce says.

Manufacturing employment in Iowa climbed to 215,300 in February – the highest it’s been since January 2009. Construction posted a one month gain of 1,300 jobs. “This great mild weather we’re having is allowing construction projects to start early,” Koonce says.

Education and health services added 3,600 jobs in February, while leisure and hospitality boosted employment by 2,100 positions.

“The only place where we had any cuts with in ‘other services,’ which is really just a mixed bag, and that was just 500 (jobs),” Koonce says. The 5.3% unemployment rate in February is the lowest rate Iowa has posted in just under three years.

The national unemployment rate remained unchanged last month at 8.3%.