A Creighton University survey shows Iowa’s economy improved slightly during December, as did economic conditions in the nine-state Midwestern region.
Creighton economist Ernie Goss says the boosts were very modest, but both the state and the region strengthened from below growth-neutral in November to just above that midpoint in December. “What we’re seeing overall is the manufacturing sector is moving along sideways at best, down to sideways,” Goss says. “In terms of the overall economy, when we look at that, that’s still growing at something like a pace of two- to two-and-a-half percent.”
Thanks, in part, to the year-end holidays, hiring across the region improved dramatically from November to December. Goss says business leaders and supply managers were asked what they anticipated would be the biggest problem in the year ahead.
“Seven out of ten indicated that finding and hiring qualified workers was their number-one challenge for 2020,” Goss says. “Number two was, one out of ten named trade wars and the global economy.”
Iowa Workforce Development says the state’s unemployment rate in November was two-point-six percent, one of the lowest in the nation, while the U.S. jobless rate was 3.5%. “The unemployment rates at the U.S. level are the lowest in 50 years,” Goss says. “In most all the states we survey, it’s even lower than that. Companies need to find and hire qualified workers. We need trained workers, but we also need some unskilled workers, particularly in rural areas of the nine states.”
For all of 2019, Iowa’s overall economy ranked seventh in economic performance among the nine Midwestern states. Goss predicts for the first half of 2020, Iowa will improve to sixth.