Business

Iowa jobless rate slips to 6.6 percent in July

Job seekers wait in line to speak with representatives. (Bloomberg photo by Mark Kauzlarich)
Job seekers wait in line to speak with representatives. (Bloomberg photo by Mark Kauzlarich)

DES MOINES — The number of Iowans out of work or seeking jobs continues to decline as more businesses bounce back from last spring’s COVID-19 shutdown.

Iowa Workforce Development officials reported Friday the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 6.6 percent in July.

That compared to April’s record-high 11 percent jobless rate when Iowa was in the throes of a public health disaster proclamation that shut down many businesses, schools and other activities to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that hit Iowa in March.

Iowa Workforce Development officials said July’s 6.6 percent statewide measure of joblessness was in stark contrast to a year ago when Iowa’s level of unemployment stood at 2.7 percent. Nationwide, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 10.2 percent in July.

“July’s payrolls grew by 29,300. It is good news to see a decline in the overall unemployment rate. It is much better for our economic recovery if Iowa can move people off of unemployment and back into full-time jobs,” Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said.

“There are currently over 58,000 job postings on www.IowaWORKS.gov,” she added. “We will be reinstating the work search requirement on Sept. 8 for many currently on unemployment.”

The number of unemployed Iowans declined to 107,300 in July, from 137,700 in June, according to state data. The current estimate is 59,800 higher than the year-ago level of 47,500.

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The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,517,900 in July — a figure that was 11,400 higher than June and 175,300 lower than one year ago.

Overall, seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment in Iowa grew to 1,488,600 jobs in July, thanks to hiring boosts among Iowa establishments of 29,300, state officials said.

July’s gain was substantial and followed an increase of 44,700 jobs in June as companies fill payrolls and social-distancing efforts start to relax, according to the Iowa Workforce Development monthly report.

Private industries added 20,700 jobs and were fueled by service industries such as health care and social assistance, along with administrative and support services.

Goods-producing industries have been hampered by weakness in the construction sector that has added jobs only in two months this year, in January and May.

Government employment advanced with 8,600 more jobs versus June and as public schools start to return to normal operations.

Overall, government remains 10,500 jobs below last July despite the large monthly gains over the past two months.

Within private sectors, leisure and hospitality — industries were most affected by social-distancing measures — continued a three-month trend by adding the most jobs of any super sector in July, with 8,600 more positions.

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Through July, leisure and hospitality has brought back nearly half of all staff laid off in March and April, although the job gains slowed markedly this month.

Eating and drinking establishments comprised the majority of these job gains.

Professional and business services advanced by 4,600 jobs with most of the growth evenly split between professional and business services and administrative and waste services.

Health care and social assistance added 3,900 jobs following a gain of 3,500 in June.

Manufacturing added 2,100 jobs fueled entirely by non-durable goods factories. Whereas durable goods has trended down slightly over the past few months, nondurable goods shops have rebounded to near pre-coronavirus levels.

Job losses were sparse in July, but construction was down about 200, which marked declines in five of the past six months.

Construction has been one of the slowest industries to recover and remains down 9,400 jobs versus last July, according to the Iowa Workforce Development report.

For the year, Iowa is down about 97,200 jobs — or 6.1 percent — versus last July. Leisure and hospitality still had the majority of the losses, at 31,700, due to accommodations and food services operating at reduced staffing levels.

Trade, transportation and utilities posted declines of 9,700 jobs.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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