Iowa’s unemployment rate went up slightly in January. Kerry Koonce crunches the numbers for Iowa Workforce Development. “Our rate was at 4.3-percent — it’s a tenth of a percent up from 4.2 in December. Part of that is due to benchmarking as the numbers change a little bit. But, compared to January 2013 — we were at five percent — so we are significantly below where we were a year ago,” Koonce says.

The benchmarking Koonce mentioned is the annual process where they bring all of last year’s monthly numbers up to date before figuring the new year numbers. Koonce says the numbers released each month sometimes don’t include all the information available. “Sometimes it’s a quarter later when all of the data comes in, January’s data, it can be April before we see everything.  So we go back and true up those numbers to what the real information is from what employers report on their quarterly information and those kinds of things,” Koonce says. “And so you will see some changes in each month’s numbers of the previous year which overall can have an impact on what the annual rate is and those kinds of things.”

The numbers show the state lost 7,300 jobs from December to January. “The majority of that came in the trade, transportation and utilities area…most of it in retail trade. And what it looks like is the seasonable adjustment numbers maybe didn’t capture everything. So, we are expecting that maybe next month that’s going to kind of even back out,” according to Koonce.

Fifty-six-hundred of the lost jobs were in that trade, transportation and utilities sector. “We think that when the February numbers come out — and those will come out later this month — we will see where we are normally at this time of year,” Koonce says.

Regardless of how the numbers are adjusted, she says the overall picture is improving. “We’re almost a full percentage point below where we were this time last year. So that’s a significant improvement for our economy as we continue move forward,” Koonce says. “Plus, our unemployment claims continue to decrease, new claims continue to go down.” The January 2013 unemployment rate for the state was five percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate for January inched down to 6.6-percent from 6.7-percent in December. This was the lowest national rate since October 2008.