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Iowa unemployment rate sticks at 2.8 percent for February; impacts from coronavirus not yet seen

Iowa’s unemployment rate remained at 2.8 percent for the third straight month in February, Iowa Workforce Development announced Friday.

Agency director Beth Townsend said the COVID-19 pandemic is not expected to have an impact on Iowa’s unemployment rate until April — the figures for which will be released in mid-May — bceause of how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data.

As such, she continued, the February and upcoming March rates “are not indicative of where we are now as a result of the recent outbreak.”

“We continue to encourage employers to utilize as many employees as possible and use alternative methods to allow them to work during this challenging time,” Townsend said.

The state’s unemployment rate grew to 2.7 percent in December — later revised to 2.8 percent — after two months at 2.6 percent in October and November, and three months at 2.5 percent, between July and September.

There were 1,703,500 working Iowans in February — a decrease of 1,500 from January and 28,600 higher than February 2019, Iowa Workforce Development said.

At the same time, the number of unemployed Iowans decreased by 400 this month, from 49,700 in January to 49,300 in February. That estimate is 3,000 higher than the year-ago level of 46,300.

The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly to 3.5 percent in February.

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Iowa businesses shed 1,200 jobs from last month, in a contraction Iowa Workforce Development said is not related to COVID-19 but rather “a symptom of reduced activity within goods-producing sectors.”

Iowans who have stopped looking for work or who otherwise have cycled out of the system are not counted among the unemployed.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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