The state unemployment rate dropped down in December, and a spokesperson for Iowa Workforce Development says the state is getting close to full employment. IWD spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, says the December unemployment rate hit 4.1 percent, compared to 4.3 percent in November. “Four-point-one percent is actually the lowest rate we’ve had since June of 2008. The national rate is still standing at five-point-six percent for December,” Koonce says.
She says the national experts believe Iowa is getting close to what’s called full employment, or the percentage of the labor market that is able to find a job if they want a job.
“It’s between 3.5 and 4 percent for Iowa, closer to the 4 percent,” Koonce says. “It used be closer to the 3, 3.5, but as the economy has changed over the years, they say the full employment for Iowa falls in that 3.5 to 4 percent range.”
It is the third straight month that the unemployment rate has dropped. “What we’ve seen is we’ve seen a decrease in the number of people who are unemployed, plus a continued increase in the size of our labor force couple with adding 2,100 jobs to the economy in the month of December, that’s what allows us to bring that rate down continually,” Koonce explains.
She says a large portion of the new jobs, 1,600 of themwere in manufacturing and another 500 still in construction. The state lost one thousand jobs in the trade and transportation area, which Koonce says included the retail sector. “You saw a lot of people leave at the end of the holiday season, plus the retail trade is just seeing a lot more people move to on-line shopping, so that just decreases the numbers they need in the actual stores,” she says. Local and state government saw the loss of 900 jobs in the month, but she says but many of these losses were seasonal transitions and should be recovered in January.
Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, Deere and Company, announced the layoff of 900 workers last week. Koonce says that won’t have an immediate impact on next month’s unemployment numbers. “We’ill see it in the job numbers, but it may be kind of a slow progression. And that’s because the layoffs are spread out over three to four months with John Deere,” Koonce explains. “So they won’t be completed until the end of April, so it would be our May report which is for April numbers, when all of that would have taken effect. But if it’s spread out over several months it will be a small decline, you are not going to see a sudden drop of 900 all at once.”
Koonce says Iowa Workforce Development already is responding to help the Deere workers as they face the layoffs. IWD says the total number of working Iowans reached a current-year peak of 1,642, 900 in December. This figure is 3,100 higher than November and 38,100 higher than one year ago.