Unemployment rate holds steady in September

DES MOINES — The state unemployment rate is back in a holding pattern again — staying at 2.5% in September.

Iowa Workforce Development Deputy Director, Ryan West, says it’s the third month at that rate after 12 straight months where it held at 2.4%. “All in all, we’ve had a really phenomenal last kind of 18 months — longer than that really — but going back just 18 months where we’ve hovered around that two-and-a-half percent area,” West says.

The unemployment rate hasn’t changed — but there has been movement both ways in the September job market. “We had an increase with 7,900 more Iowans working than in August. But we still have thousands of positions that are open,” West says. He says the increase in workers getting into the workforce offset an increase in people who don’t have a job. “The number of unemployed Iowans increased to 44,200 in September from 43,800 in August. So, that current estimate is 4,200 higher than a year ago level of 40,000,” he says.

The total number of working Iowans has increased by 45,200 compared to last September.  West says a lot of the increase in labor is companies hiring extra workers to get work finished before the winter weather sets in. West says it is hard to get a handle on how long it takes someone who loses a job to get a new one.

“The average claimant is on unemployment for 12 weeks,” according to West. “Now that’s kind of skewed — because again Iowa being a seasonal state — we’ll have folks who get laid off during the wintertime and that can kind of skew the overall numbers for the year.” He says the time of year and type of employment play a big role in how quickly someone gets a new job. West says Iowa Workforce Development sometimes tries to help people get back into the workforce by expanding their search beyond the job they held in the past.

“We have what we call an average weekly wage where an individual after a certain amount of weeks — we ask them to maybe broaden their horizons a little more — look for opportunities that maybe weren’t what they actually looking for in the beginning to help fill those positions,” West says.

Iowa’s unemployment rate remains well below the U.S. rate — which fell to 3.5% in September.