Iowa JobWatch — Latest Numbers (through May 2017)
Iowa JobWatch: Iowa jobs rebound in May
Jobless rate stable at 3.1 percent; state drops bogus job tally

Iowa JobWatch — May 2017

Issued Friday, June 16, 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa (June 16, 2017) — Iowa payroll jobs rose in May as the unemployment rate held at 3.1 percent.

The Iowa Policy Project released the following statement from Executive Director Mike Owen about the latest seasonally adjusted jobs data from Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“A welcome boost in manufacturing jobs contributed to a 5,500 nonfarm job increase in May. As always we look at the long-term picture, which remains one of slow growth and still below the pace needed to bring Iowa jobs back to pre-recession levels keeping up with the size of the population.

“The preliminary May number of 1,583,100 is a new all-time high for nonfarm jobs, which is good news. However, Iowa's job performance has been choppy; the latest monthly gain is the seventh in the last 14 months.

“It is important to note that the nonfarm job numbers offer a different perspective than the unemployment rate, even though the rate has declined over the year from 3.8 percent to 3.1 percent. That is mainly because the labor force is smaller, as the number reporting they are working is about the same.

“Finally, one very welcome piece of the latest job report was not promoted by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), so we will do so. After many years of including a long-discredited job-count calculation by the Branstad administration, IWD under new Governor Kim Reynolds has removed that tally from the official report. It is important to keep such reports clean of political messaging to protect the credibility of the data. The Reynolds administration appears to acknowledge this with this latest jobs report by IWD.”

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization in Iowa City that has been tracking Iowa job issues since its founding in 2001. Find reports at

Key Numbers
• Iowa nonfarm jobs rose by 5,500 to 1,583,100 in May, 15,200 ahead of May 2016.
• Iowa's unemployment rate was 3.1 percent, as in March and April, down from 3.8 percent a year earlier. While employment remained similar to the level a year ago, the labor force has declined by 11,100, about the same as the 11,200 fewer reporting they are unemployed.
• Jobs gained in six of the 11 major job categories. Trade, transportation and utilities led with 2,400 more jobs in May, while manufacturing showed a 2,300-job boost.
• The largest drop for the month came in leisure and hospitality jobs, at 1,200. Government jobs dropped by 500, with IWD attributing this to larger than expected seasonal declines in local government.

Key Trends
• Iowa nonfarm jobs were up 15,200 over the 12 months from May 2016 to May 2017, or an average of about 1,300 jobs per month.
• Over the year, trade, transportation and utilities jobs have gained the most (7,100), followed by education and health services (5,100), and professional and business services (4,000).
• Five categories have shown declines over the previous 12 months — the largest drop coming in government (2,000). Again, IWD attributed this to local government reductions.