Iowa's metro areas continue to recover lost jobs, latest report shows
The economy has slowly improved this summer in Iowa's largest cities.
Unemployment rates dropped in all seven of the state's metropolitan areas from June to July, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since widespread pandemic-related business shutdowns from mid-March through April, each of the metros has added jobs for three consecutive months.
However, no city's economy is nearly as strong as it was before the pandemic. In the Des Moines-West Des Moines metropolitan area, the unemployment rate improved to 6.9% from 8.8% in June. But in February, before the first round of pandemic business closures, the rate was 3%.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, all 189 metro areas in the United States added jobs in July. Des Moines added the most of any metro in Iowa, but it still has about 25,000 fewer than it did during the same time last year, and its unemployment rate is tied with Waterloo for the state's third highest after Cedar Rapids, at 7.6%, and Dubuque, at 7%.
At 5%, Ames has the lowest unemployment rate in Iowa and the eight-lowest in the country. Second-lowest in Iowa was Sioux City, at 5.8%. Iowa City was third at 6.1%.
The Omaha metro area, which includes Council Bluffs in Iowa, came in at 5.9%. The Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metro area, which is included in figures for Illinois, had a 9.1% unemployment rate.
Overall, Iowa's unemployment rate for July, reported Aug. 21, is 6.6%. The state has recovered about half of the 185,000 jobs it lost in the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state's unemployment rate is the seventh-lowest in the country but about 4 percentage points higher than where it stood at the same time last year.
The economic recovery could be slowed by the persistence of the coronavirus. The state saw more daily cases last week than it has at any point in the pandemic, and Gov. Kim Reynolds on Aug. 27 ordered bars to close in the six counties that have seen the largest outbreaks, including Johnson, Polk and Story.
Meanwhile, Iowa Workforce Development has told unemployed workers they will need to begin searching for jobs again starting Sept. 8. Otherwise, the state could strip the workers of their unemployment benefits.
The out-of-work Iowans also are still waiting for news about when they will receive a $300 weekly unemployment boost from Lost Wages Assistance, a program created through an executive order by President Donald Trump in mid-August. The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted Iowa's request to participate in the program Aug. 14.
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