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Iowa jobless rate drops to 3.6 percent in October
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Iowa jobless rate drops to 3.6 percent in October

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DES MOINES — Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped by more than a percentage point last month as the state continued its economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic caused Gov. Kim Reynolds to order non-essential businesses and services to shut down temporarily and many Iowans to work from home.

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in October, officials with Iowa Workforce Development said Friday.

That compared to the U.S. jobless rate of 6.9% last month.

“We have to balance fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with a targeted approach that protects lives while also keeping our economy open and our kids safely in the classroom,” Reynolds said in a statement.

“This good economic news is a reflection of Iowans’ resiliency, our ability to innovate and work together to protect each other.”

Iowa’s measure of idled workers stood at 4.7% in September after eight consecutive monthly drops in labor force participation. The state’s jobless rate was 2.8% one year ago.

“The drop in the unemployment rate in October is a ray of sunshine and demonstrates that Iowa continues to recover economically from the effects of the pandemic,” IWD director Beth Townsend said. “As we enter the traditional time of higher unemployment due to seasonal layoffs, it’s important to note that employers are still looking for employees and there are over 72,000 openings posted on iowaworks.gov.”

The number of unemployed Iowans declined to 58,500 in October — down from 78,700 the previous month, Townsend noted.

The current estimate is 129,500 lower than the COVID-19 peak in April of 188,000 and only 9,200 higher than the year ago level of 49,300.

Meanwhile, IWD data indicated the total number of working Iowans increased to 1,574,300 in the past month — a figure that was 15,200 higher than September’s number of 1,559,100 and 49,700 higher than April 2020.

Iowa’s economy took a major hit when Reynolds issued a public health emergency disaster proclamation when COVID-19 entered the state in March that shuttered schools and many businesses.

Iowa’s peak unemployment rate during the pandemic so far has been 11.0%, in April, and now has fallen by 7.4 percentage points, according to the state’s workforce development agency.

State officials noted that total nonfarm employment grew by 10,600 jobs in Iowa last month — a monthly increase that was nearly identical to September’s gain, although growth in October was heavily fueled by boosts in the goods-producing sector.

Monthly job gains have averaged 8,400 over the past three months and 19,600 since the April low.

Highlights from the IWD data:

• Private companies in total gained 11,800 jobs in October while government shed 1,200 jobs.

• Construction added the most jobs, 4,700, in October — a jump that was unexpected and the first gain since May.

• Retail trade rose by 1,600 with much of the hiring stemming from general merchandise stores, according to IWD.

• Transportation, warehousing and utilities also added 900 jobs in October, allowing the trade and transportation super sector to add 3,000 jobs versus September, officials noted.

• Administrative support and waste management posted a large gain versus 2,400 last month and has averaged monthly gains of 1,200 jobs since April.

• Nondurable goods manufacturing rose 1,600 in October with strong hiring in food manufacturing to mark another consecutive growth month since April.

• Private-sector job losses were sparse and included a 1,300 drop in the accommodations and food services — marking the first monthly job loss for that sector in the past six months, according to IWD.

• Durable goods factories pared 800 jobs in the wake of a September increase of 1,200 jobs.

Since April, IWD officials reported Iowa businesses have added 117,300 jobs back on to their payrolls.

• While leisure and hospitality did not recover much ground this month, that sector was up 47,100 jobs during that span, with gains being largest in accommodations and food services at 38,500.

• Trade and transportation was bolstered by unexpected hiring in the retail sector and posted 16,600 job gains.

• Education and health care has made up ground in both sectors with 13,000 jobs added back.

• Manufacturing has benefited from a surging nondurable goods sector and is up 9,400 jobs over the last seven months.

The total number of initial claims trended down by 3,254 in October versus September and have now fallen 137,688 — down 87.5 percent — versus the peak of 157,324 five months ago, according to state officials.

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