Iowa's jobless rate may be better than the country as a whole, but wages still are in the midst of long-term stagnation and more than a quarter of the unemployed in the state have been out of work for at least six months, a new report said on Friday.
The State of Working Iowa 2013, an annual report issued by the Iowa Policy Project, based in Iowa City, acknowledged the state has regained the jobs it lost in the recession. But it said there still is stress on working people and that the state lags in job creation in two traditionally high-paying areas of the economy: construction and manufacturing.
"In Iowa and the nation, the recession exaggerated a drift toward diminished employment security and widening inequality. And, in Iowa and the nation, the recovery has offered little respite," Colin Gordon, the author of the report, said.
Gordon is a history professor at the University of Iowa and a senior research consultant at the Iowa Policy Project, which has advocated for an increase in the minimum wage.
Iowa's unemployment rate was 4.8 percent last month, down from 5.5 percent the year before. That compares favorably to the nation, which saw a 7.4 percent unemployment rate in July. It also is far better than Illinois, where it is 9.2 percent.
But the report said a longer term look at wages in the state shows stagnation.
It said between 1979 and 2012, inflation-adjusted wages for Iowa workers at the median had only increased 3.4 percent.
Those in the 90th percentile saw real wage growth of 15.6 percent, the report said.
"While the economy has grown 67 percent since 1979 in terms of income, wage earners have seen little of that."
At the bottom end of the wage scale, real earnings have actually declined between 1979 and 2012, the report said.
Iowa did reach a benchmark in June, when the state reached its pre-recession employment peak. But the policy project said had Iowa kept pace with population growth, it would have 52,000 jobs more than it does now.
Since late 2007, Iowa's economy has added the most jobs in the health care and professional and business services sectors, but it has suffered a net loss in the manufacturing, construction and information sectors.
Of the people still out of work, the long-term unemployed (six months or more) has shrunk from 2010, when it was 33.5 percent. But it was still at 27.5 percent at the end of 2012, the report said.