Iowa JobWatch — Latest Numbers (through August 2015)
Nonfarm Jobs Stumble but Jobless Rate Improves
Still, Long-Term Trend of Slow Growth in Iowa Jobs
Iowa JobWatch — September 2015

Issued Monday, September 18, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa — While Iowa nonfarm jobs dropped slightly, by 800 in August, the state unemployment rate also dipped, to 3.7 percent, according to Iowa Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Iowa Policy Project released the following statement from Executive Director Mike Owen:

“Like July, August was a month of conflicting signals — this time a lower unemployment rate but also a decline in the number of nonfarm or payroll jobs. Last time, each measure took the opposite direction. That lends some confusion to watching job trends, but we have to remember that these numbers come from separate sources — jobs from an employer survey, and the unemployment rate from a smaller survey of households. So we can't count on them to show the same trends.

“Every now and then we get a strong month, as we did in July, but we can't seem to string them together. Regardless of these monthly swings, the long-term picture remains stable: We are seeing job growth in Iowa, but it's been coming at a slow pace in the neighborhood of 2,000 a month for some time. That's one reason we have not seen a full recovery from the last recession, which ended six years ago.”

Job Growth Perspective
The August numbers leave Iowa almost 34,000 jobs short of what is needed, accounting for 5.6 percent population growth, to match payroll jobs at the start of the 2007-09 recession. (Economic Policy Institute analysis)

The Iowa Policy Project (IPP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research and analysis organization in Iowa City. IPP has issued monthly job reports since 2003. IPP analysis is available at

Key Numbers
• Nonfarm jobs dipped in August by 800 to 1,575,900 from 1,576,700 in July. Nonfarm jobs (seasonally adjusted) were 26,100 ahead of where they stood in August 2014.
• The unemployment rate fell back to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent, and was down from 4.3 percent a year earlier.
• The labor force — those working or looking for work — was relatively stable with a 200 drop from July to 1,700,200, which was 9,000 behind August 2014. At the same time, the number reporting they were unemployed also fell, by 1,500, while those reporting they were employed rose by 1,200.
• Only three of the 11 major job sectors posted gains in August — with construction posting the largest gain at 2,100, followed by 1,000 in financial activities and 600 in professional and business services.
• Government jobs dropped by 1,800 and "other" services jobs fell by 1,000, with declines in four other sectors by less than 1,000, and two categories with no change.

Key Trends
• Over the last 22 months, Iowa has gained nonfarm or payroll jobs in 18.
• Iowa averaged a monthly increase of about 2,200 jobs from August 2014 to August 2015.
• Over the year, the strongest percentage gains came in construction, 8.9 percent (6,700 jobs), and financial activities, 3.3 percent (3,400). Trade, transportation and utilities grew by 6,000 jobs over the year, a 2 percent increase in the largest job sector.
• Only one category is down from a year earlier: information by 3.1 percent (800 jobs).