Workforce participation increases as Iowa unemployment rate unchanged in May

DES MOINES — The state unemployment rate for May remained at 2.7%.

Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend says job losses were offset by more workers joining the labor force. “We saw 6,400 people come back into the workforce — so that’s a really good sign,” Townsend says. “We saw a decrease in the total number of unemployed individuals by 500, from month to month. So when people are coming back into the work workforce, they’re also coming in and finding jobs.”

The labor force participation rate moved up to 68.5% in May, getting closer to the 69% rate before the pandemic. Total non-farm employment did drop by 200 jobs in May, with manufacturing losing 1,4000 jobs.  “So that’s concerning, you know, we want to make sure that we keep those numbers up, that can be related to seasonal shutdowns,” she says. “A lot of factories tend to shut down during the week if there’s a national holiday or something. So it could be related to that.”

Townsend says there was one manufacturing area that saw the bulk of the losses.  “The job losses in manufacturing were both in durable and nondurable — but they appeared to be related primarily to animal slaughtering and processing. Those jobs were down about 300 this month. So a slowdown maybe in meat processing, in May, might account for that,” Townsend says.

Retail trade saw a loss of 900 jobs, breaking a string of five consecutive increases that saw 3,300 jobs added since November. Townsend says there are a lot of positives in the report and they will keep an eye on the retail and manufacturing sectors.  “Those are indicators of how the economy is going manufacturing and retail. So, there’s some cautionary pieces of information in the report,” she says “Although overall, it’s positive because we did get, more than 6000 Iowans back into the workforce,” she says.

The national unemployment rate rose to 3.7% in May.