Iowa’s Unemployment Fell to 2.8% in March, Workforce Participation Rate Up to 68.2%

(Radio Iowa) Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percent in March. Last month’s two-point-eight percent unemployment rate is half a percent lower than it was a year ago. The percentage of working-age Iowans who have a job or are actively looking for one increased to 68-point-two percent. Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend says it’s a sign people who quit a job or retired during the pandemic are returning to the labor market.

“Even though it’s a positive sign the unemployment rate is dropping we really are focused on getting more Iowans back in the workforce,” Townsend says. “We were at about 69.5% before the pandemic and so we want to get back that number or even higher.” The retirement rate was higher than projected during the pandemic and Townsend says there is a combination of factors prompting recent retirees to return to the workforce.

“Whether it’s due to inflation impacting their retirement savings and if they’re on a fixed income, it’s not going as far as they planned…and older workers who may have retired earlier than they had planned to want to come and because we have so many open jobs they can be more selective,” Townsend says. “Obviously the higher wage has gone up significantly across all industries, so there’s greater opportunity to earn more money in today’s job market.”
Government records indicate 2,700 workers started new jobs in March. Nursing and residential care facilities were responsible for most of the thousand or so jobs added in the healthcare sector.

“Nursing has always been the highest-demand occupation,” Townsend says. Over the past three months, Iowa’s manufacturing sector has bounced back from what Townsend describes as a weak fourth quarter.

“We’re doing well in manufacturing. We’ve added 700 jobs in March. We’ve added almost 2000 jobs in the last three months in manufacturing. We’re up 3900 jobs in manufacturing since last March. We’re up 3,800 jobs in construction since last March,” Townsend says. “Manufacturing and construction are trending in the right direction in Iowa.” There were about a thousand job losses in Iowa’s transportation, warehousing, and utility industries. Townsend says that may be due to supply chain issues. The leisure and hospitality industries in Iowa have added more than 5,100 jobs since last March as the sector continues to bounce back from pandemic closures,