After three months of increasing, the state unemployment rate dropped in October. Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, says the rate dropped to 4.6-percent from 4.7-percent in September. “Which is significantly better than where we were at this time last year at 5.1. Unfortunately, the national rate actually went up a little bit from 7.2 to 7.3,” Koonce says.

Koonce says the difference in the Iowa and national job numbers is due to the size of the state’s labor force increasing. She says there are a couple of factors involved. “One, the overall size of your population could be increasing, which is positive for Iowa,” Koonce says. “It’s also individuals who were maybe unemployed and not looking for work because they had given up have come back into the workforce and are looking again. Which is a positive sign, they believe there are opportunities out there for them.”

Koonce says 3,000 more Iowans were working in October compared to September. “Some of our biggest gains were in manufacturing and then in the education and health services area — with most of that being in health services. We also saw a little big of gain in construction still, even though we are moving into the time of year where that will start to slow down,” Koonce says.

The gains were offset by some losses. She says the heaviest loss was in federal, state and local government. “Some of that can be attributed to the government shutdown and we should see some changes in that next month, hopefully,” Koonce explains. “We also saw some losses in trade, transportation and utilities area, and that’s kind of spread across the industry as well.”

There are reports that retailers are hiring some permanent workers along with the seasonal employees they hire this time of year. Koonce says that appears to be the case.

“You’re definitely seeing a better level of hiring this year — so that’s a positive thing,” Koonce says. “And a lot of the reports out there are saying holiday shopping should be better this year, so all of those things signal that things should be better for our economy.” The seasonal jobs are not figured into the regular unemployment numbers, and Koonce says it will take them a couple of months to get the data to see just how strong the hiring was for the holiday season.

Overall,Iowa’s economy continues plodding ahead at a slow but even pace.”You know what, slowly plodding along is still positive, because you are not going back the other way. So, we’ll take it this time of year,” Koonce says. The total number of working Iowans reached a current-year peak of 1,583,300 in October. That’s 3,000 higher than September and 35,700 higher than one year ago.