Iowa JobWatch — Latest Numbers (through October 2015)
Concerns shadow uptick in jobs
Jobless Rate Improves to 3.5 Percent in October
Iowa JobWatch — November 2015

Issued Friday, November 20, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate showed slight improvements in October according to new data released today by Iowa Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The payroll job number rose by about 900, while the unemployment rate dropped from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent.

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

“Overall improvements in Iowa jobs in October were ever-so-slight as eight of the 11 major job sectors showed one-month declines. While it marked the second straight monthly increase overall, other trends are showing points of concern.

“Two of Iowa’s four largest job sectors — manufacturing and government — show slight declines over the year. These are very slight declines, but these sectors represent large shares of Iowa jobs and often good jobs. Positive numbers there would be positive signs for the state economy.

“Meanwhile, job growth is about half of what Governor Branstad had hoped for over almost five years, and remains over the long term at a very sluggish pace.”

Job Growth Perspective
Iowa jobs are well off the pace that would have been needed for Governor Branstad to meet a goal of 200,000 new jobs in five years. Iowa also falls short of the jobs needed, considering population growth, to put Iowa where it stood before the last recession.

The economy has only produced little over half of the jobs the Governor would have needed to meet his goal — now 101,700 jobs through the first 57 of the 60 months. To sustain the kind of growth needed to meet the goal, Iowa’s economy would have needed to produce some 3,300 jobs a month for five years. To date, job growth has been less than 1,800 per month.

In fact, the Economic Policy Institute noted the October numbers leave Iowa 34,700 short of what is needed, accounting for 5.7 percent population growth, to match payroll jobs at the start of the 2007-09 recession. This jobs deficit in recovery is likely a more relevant indicator of Iowa job growth than a measure based on the start of a governor's term.

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 rose in October by 900 to 1,577,300 from an upwardly revised 1,576,400 in September. Nonfarm jobs (seasonally adjusted) were 22,300 ahead of where they stood in October 2014.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent, compared with 4.3 percent a year earlier.
The labor force — those working or looking for work — rose by 3,000 to 1,704,900, but was 8,400 behind October 2014. The number reporting they were unemployed fell by 1,100, to 60,300, while those reporting they were employed rose by 4,000. • Only three of the 11 major job sectors posted gains in October — professional and business services (3,300), “other” services (2,100) and government (500).
Declines were relatively low, with only leisure and hospitality (down 1,900) and manufacturing (down 1,000) showing declines of 1,000 or more.

Key Trends
Over the last 24 months, Iowa has gained nonfarm or payroll jobs in all but four.
Iowa averaged a monthly increase of 1,900 jobs from October 2014 to October 2015.
Over the year, the strongest percentage gains are in “other“ services, 6.3 percent (3,700 jobs), and in construction, 4.8 percent (3,700 jobs) and professional and business services, 4.8 percent (6,500 jobs).
Four job categories were down from a year earlier: manufacturing (1,000), information (900), government (100) and mining (100).