Iowa unemployment rate edges up in February

Retail trade added the most jobs in February

George Ford
Published: March 28 2014 | 2:34 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:16 am in

With a sharp increase in Iowa's labor force to its highest level in five years, the state's unemployment rate edged up to 4.4 percent last month from 4.3 percent in January.

The jobless rate for February was still an improvement over the 4.9 percent recorded in February 2013, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

Statewide, an estimated 74,400 people were unemployed last month, up from 71,600 in January, but down 6,700 from the year ago level of 81,100.  The total number of working Iowans advanced to 1,610,100 in February from 1,606,200 in January.

Total employment is 23,900 higher than a year ago, and the highest on record since June 2008.

"Iowa experienced an unusually large increase in the state’s labor force in February," said Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development. "This solid rise in the number of job seekers is a sign of growing confidence in the statewide economy."

Following a large seasonal drop in January, Iowa non-farm employment rose 3,900 jobs in February. Employment gains were primarily focused in the private services (+2,700), although the goods-producing sectors and government advanced by 600 jobs each.

February’s gain is the fourth in the last five months, and leaves the state just 2,700 jobs under the all-time high of 1,544,200 set in December 2013.

Retail trade added the most jobs in February (1,800), fueling most of the gains in the trade and transportation super sector. February’s increase follows a larger-than-expected reduction of seasonal employment in January.

Construction also showed signs of recovery following two straight months of drops by adding 1,500 jobs. The sector was especially slow this winter due partially to harsh weather conditions.

Manufacturing shed the most jobs in February (-900) due to decreased activity in the state’s nondurable goods factories (-1,400). Reduced production among food-producing factories was partially responsible for the drop.

Cedar Rapids' unemployment rate edged down to 5.5 percent in February from 5.6 percent in January. A total of 138,500 residents were employed last month, up from 136,600 in January.

In Iowa City, the jobless rate was  3.6 percent in February, unchanged from January. A total of 94,300 residents were employed last month, up from 92,300 in January.

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