Iowa’s unemployment rate went down again in July — hitting 2.5%.

“It hasn’t been this low since May of 2019 — so well before the pandemic,” Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend says. She says. July extends the string of months where unemployment has dropped. “It’s the seven-month consecutive month where we’ve seen a declining unemployment rate,” she says. “We won’t know where that ranks nationally until Friday when those numbers come out.”

She says more people are returning to work than had previously left the workforce, and employers creating more jobs. “The unemployed number fell by 600 — but we have 1,800 new people in the workforce from June to July, and we’re up almost 59,000 more Iowans are working, 58,600, to be specific from this time last year,” according to Townsend. “So that’s a really positive sign to have that large of an increase over time of people returning to work.”

The workforce participation rate held at 67.8% in July. Townsend says they still like to see it up around 69.5%, but the number hasn’t been dropping as it did during the pandemic. “We still added 1,400 people to the labor force in July. So it just shows that people are continuing, if they’re not employed, they’re continuing to look for work, they want to work. So that’s a good sign where we aren’t seeing people fall out of the labor force,” she says.

Townsend credits their re-employment case management system for helping those who lose their jobs to get back in the workforce. “We’re reaching out to people the first week they file unemployment, helping them, you know, have a plan to search for that next job, update their resumes, go to interview classes, getting them connected with employers that are hiring in their area of expertise or interest, ” she says.

There are more than 85,000 jobs still available in the state. Some critics say the jobs don’t pay enough for people to live on. Townsend disagrees. “Well, not in today’s economy. I mean, if you look around most intimate most employers have a starting wage of $15 an hour to be competitive, and that’s…in restaurants and hospitality,” Townsend says. “In advanced manufacturing, you’re seeing starting rates between, you know, closer to $20 an hour.”

Townsend says nobody’s working for minimum wage these days. She says historically less than one to two percent of those in the workforce work at the minimum rate — and it is to be a rate for individuals at the entry-level position.

Radio Iowa