Fact check: Lee County unemployment rate drop is true, causes uncertain

Erin Jordan
Published: January 14 2014 | 4:18 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:06 am in Fact Check,


Lee County in southeastern Iowa has had the state's worst unemployment rate for several years. Gov. Terry Branstad claimed in his 2014 Condition of the State address unemployment in that county has dropped 40 percent since he came into office.

Source of claim

Gov. Terry Branstad

Lee County, home of Fort Madison and about 35,000 people, has the state's highest unemployment rate of 6 percent. The statewide rate is 4.4 percent.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad claimed that Lee County's unemployment rate dropped 40 percent since he took office in January 2011.

In November 2010, 10.3 percent of Lee County residents were unemployed, according to Iowa Workforce Development. Lee County's unemployment fell to 6 percent in November 2013. While this is still the highest rate in Iowa, it's down 41.7 percent from 2010.

Iowa's overall unemployment dropped 30 percent during the same time period.

Branstad claimed the Lee County improvement was due to economic development efforts, such as a $1.8 billion fertilizer plant lured to the state with incentives. He also mentioned a December announcement that MidAmerican Energy will buy 448 wind turbines for $1.9 million in Iowa projects.

The rotors and blades would be made in Fort Madison, Bloomberg.com reported.

It's impossible to say what effect these projects had on Lee County's unemployment rate over the last several years. Orascom Construction Industries, based in Cairo, Egypt, broke ground for the fertilizer plant in November.


Branstad's claim of Lee County's unemployment dropping 40 percent in the last three years is true. Whether the decline, slightly better than what we saw statewide, is due to specific projects can't be verified.

Lee County 2010: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/lmi/laborforce/etables/historic2010/area56.txt

Lee County 2013: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/lmi/laborforce/etables/area56.txt

Statewide 2010: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/lmi/laborforce/etables/historic2010/lforceia.txt

Statewide 2013: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/lmi/laborforce/etables/lforceia.txt

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