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

Issued Tuesday, October 20, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the second straight month, both nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate dipped slightly in September, according to new data from Iowa Workforce Development. The jobless rate fell to 3.6 percent, with payroll jobs down by 2,100 for the month.

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

“These conflicting signals can be confusing, which is primarily due to the fact that payroll job numbers and the unemployment rate come from different sources — jobs from an employer survey, and the unemployment rate from a smaller survey of households.

“Just as it would be a mistake to make too much of a one-month drop in the unemployment rate, so too we should not overestimate the meaning of one-month drops in nonfarm jobs in August and September, which followed an unusually large increase in July.

“Over the long term, Iowa jobs show growth — but very sluggish growth — in the wake of the 2007-09 recession. Even with the August and September declines totaling about 3,700 jobs, the level of payroll employment in Iowa remains higher than at any point before July.”

Job Growth Perspective
To capture a sense of Iowa's slow-growth trend, the state has gained — on average — 2,000 jobs per month over the last year, and less than that on average for each of the previous three years. This is well off the pace of what is needed to reach Governor Branstad’s job goal, and also falls short of the jobs needed, considering population growth, to put Iowa where it stood before the last recession.

The Governor's goal — 200,000 new jobs in five years — is about twice what the state economy has produced through 56 months and is not realistically achievable between now and January 2016, the end of the five years. Iowa has produced 97,400 new jobs since the Governor took office in January 2011.

The September numbers leave Iowa almost 38,000 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 September by 2,100 to 1,573,000 from a downwardly revised 1,575,100 in August. Nonfarm jobs (seasonally adjusted) were 23,700 ahead of where they stood in September 2014.
• The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent, compared with 4.3 percent a year earlier.
• The labor force — those working or looking for work — rose slightly by 1,400 to 1,701,500, but was 10,000 behind September 2014. At the same time, the number reporting they were unemployed also fell, by 1,200, while those reporting they were employed rose by 2,600.
• Only four of the 11 major job sectors posted gains in September, and those gains were small — with leisure and hospitality leading the way with a gain of 1,500.
• Declines also were relatively low, with the largest percentage drop in construction at 1,500 (about 2 percent). Manufacturing dipped by 2,000 (less than 1 percent), with declines in three other sectors by less than 1,000, and two categories with no change.

Key Trends
• Over the last 24 months, Iowa has gained nonfarm or payroll jobs in all but six — but three of those declines have come in the last six months.
• Iowa averaged a monthly increase of 2,000 jobs from September 2014 to September 2015.
• Over the year, the strongest percentage gains are in construction, 6.1 percent (4,600 jobs). Financial activities and education and health services are up 2.5 percent.
• Two job categories are down from a year earlier: information by 3.9 percent (1,000 jobs) and manufacturing by 0.6 percent (1,300 jobs).