DES MOINES — Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased slightly to 4.4 percent in February from 4.3 percent in January as the state’s labor force climbed to its highest level in five years.
The statewide jobless rate stood at 4.9 percent one year ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate for February ticked up to 6.7 percent from the previous month’s 6.6 percent.
“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.”
The statewide estimate of unemployed persons rose to 74,400 in February from 71,600 in January but was 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 one year ago, and the highest on record since June 2008.
Following a large seasonal drop in January, Iowa nonfarm employment rose 3,900 jobs in February. Employment gains were primarily concentrated 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.
Retail trade added the most jobs this month (+1,800), fueling most of the gains in the trade and transportation super sector. This month’s increase follows a larger-than-expected paring of seasonal employment in January. Construction also showed signs of recovery following two-straight months of drops by adding 1,500 jobs. This sector was especially slow this winter due partially to harsh weather conditions.
Other gains were small in comparison, and included professional and business services (+600), education and health services (+600) and leisure and hospitality (+200). On the other hand, 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. Other losses were slight this month and included financial activities (-300), information (-200) and other services (-200).