Iowa Workforce Development spokesman Cory Kelly says the rate dropped from 2.6 percent in July to 2.5 percent in August. “We’ve been tracking unemployment since 1976 to this degree — and this is one of five months in all of that history where we’ve had a 2.5 rate,” Kelly says. It has been nearly two decades since the unemployment rate was this low. “Last time we were here was May of 2000,” he says, “we hit another period in 1999 where we got down to this low unemployment rate as well.”
The August unemployment rate last year was 3%. Kelly says Hawaii is now the only one state that has lower unemployment than Iowa. “Iowa now stands alone with the second lowest rate of unemployment — having been tied with North Dakota for the second lowest rate in July,” Kelly says. North Dakota stayed at 2.6% unemployment in August to drop out of the tie with Iowa into third. Hawaii’s unemployment rate is 2.1%. Kelly says the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded here is 2.4%.
Industries that produce and sell goods saw the biggest increase in jobs in August — including a surprise uptick in retail trade. “If you combined wholesale and retail trade — they were responsible for a combined 1,700 jobs added — with wholesale outpacing retail by a nearly two-to-one margin,” Kelly says. “Wholesale trade had gains in three of the last four month, alternatively retail rebounded slightly following a large drop in July and had generally been trending down since last year.” He says construction continued to produce more jobs than expected.
“Construction added jobs in August — up 1,100 positions in construction — and similarly on a streak there, has added jobs every month since January, ” according to Kelly. “This is a stark turnaround compared to last year when jobs were only added in two months.”
Kelly says there were a few areas that saw job losses. “Losses this month were dominated by leisure and hospitality. They went down about 1,100. That supersector has pared jobs in virtually all segments,” he explains. “Although loses in accommodations and food services slightly outweighed loses in arts and entertainment. All other loses were small in nature and included finance and insurance, other services, and information services.”
The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 42,800 in August from 44,000 in July. Kelly says they high demand for workers has kept his agency busy. “With this low unemployment rate, we have to do everything that we can to support individuals who need to upskill and develop their capacity to meet Iowa employers’ needs. That’s really the focus of those Future Ready Iowa summits,” Kelly says.
There’s a Future Ready Iowa Summitt today in Muscatine, and several more are planned across the state.