Iowa unemployment rate drops to 2.9% in February

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 2.9% in February from 3% in January, according to a report March 23 from Iowa Workforce Development.

Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate increased from 3.4% to 3.6% in February. The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 50,100 in February from 51,200 in January.

The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,671,200 in February, a total 1,300 higher than January and 3,900 higher than one year ago. Iowa’s economy is now 8,400 jobs above the level seen prior to the pandemic.

The state’s labor force inched up by 100 people. Iowa’s labor force participation rate remained at 68.1% in February, up 0.1% from one year ago.

“Despite ongoing pressures tied to higher interest rates and nationwide inflation, new data show that Iowans continue to move from unemployed to employed,” said Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend in a release. “In February, we saw more Iowans who had been looking for work find a job, and we maintained our increased labor force participation rate. Our economy has increased the number of jobs by more than 8,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. All of this demonstrates the resiliency of the Iowa economy despite major national headwinds.”

Iowa’s total nonfarm employment in February showed little movement compared to last month, adding just 300 jobs. This month’s gain also follows in the wake of an historically large increase in January, which saw 7,000 jobs added to begin the year.

Private industries in the state shed 900 jobs, with losses stemming from goods-producing sectors this month. Service industries added 1,300 jobs, with most of the increase being within government (+1,200). This month’s gain leaves government up 4,900 jobs over the year, thanks to hiring at the local government level, and Iowa establishments combined have gained 22,800 jobs.

Construction shed 1,600 jobs in February to lead all sectors. This loss follows an increase of 3,600 jobs in January and may have been the result of forbidding weather halting work in February, IWD officials said. Even considering the loss, construction remains substantially up versus last year’s mark (+3,100).

Health care and social assistance also declined in February (-900). Prior to this month, this industry had been showing signs of recovery, with 2,600 jobs added over the prior two months.

Alternatively, job gains were led by professional and business services in February (+800), as both technical services and administrative support and waste management firms added jobs this month.

Manufacturing advanced by 700 jobs, thanks to hiring in durable goods factories. This gain was partially the result of hiring in agriculture, construction, and mining equipment manufacturing along with fabricated metal product production. Conversely, nondurable goods factories shed 300 jobs in February.

Annually, Iowa’s total nonfarm employment is up 22,800 jobs, a gain of 1.5%. The largest gains have been in health care and social assistance (+4,800), manufacturing (+4,300), and education (+3,300). Losses have been smaller in magnitude and include transportation and warehousing (-2,200), retail trade (-2,000), and administrative support and waste management (-1,700).