Iowa payrolls increased about the same pace as the rest of the country's in April, a positive sign for a state whose economic recovery has been relatively sluggish over the last year.
The state added 3,300 jobs last month, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey released Friday, in proportion with the 428,000 added for the United States overall. April also marks the fourth month out of the past five that Iowa has added jobs.
The state's unemployment rate dropped to 3% from 3.3%. The rate is still above where it was in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Iowa boasted a 2.6% unemployment rate.
Overall, the state's rate was the 15th lowest in the country in April. Nebraska and Utah were tied for first, with rates of 1.9%. The national unemployment rate is 3.6%.
The latest report showed a couple other signs of momentum for Iowa, with the number of unemployed workers dropping and the number of Iowans in the labor force increasing.
"Our economy continues to grow, our labor force continues to expand, and unemployed Iowans are finding amazing new career opportunities faster than ever thanks to our pivot to focus on reemployment," Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said in a statement.
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The number of unemployed Iowans dropped to 50,900 in April from 55,600 the month before. The state had about 45,000 unemployed workers before the pandemic.
The size of the labor force, meanwhile, increased by about 5,300 from March to April. The labor force — which measures people with jobs or looking for work — is still about 42,000 shy of where it stood before the pandemic.
Employers in Iowa are still hiring at a much higher rate than they were before the pandemic. They posted about 111,000 job openings as of March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. that is well above the 74,000 job openings in the state as of February 2020.
White collar jobs lead the way for Iowa's April job growth
According to the BLS, the professional, scientific and technical services sector led the way last month, adding about 1,100 jobs. Other growing sectors included:
Durable goods manufacturing, adding 900 jobs.
Finance and insurance, adding 700 jobs.
Educational services, adding 600 jobs.
At the same time, payrolls in the retail trade sector dropped by about 700. Administrative and support services jobs declined by 500, as did jobs in the wholesale trade sector.
Since the pandemic began, the health services sector continues to be the biggest drag on Iowa's economy. Jobs in the sector are still down about 10,700 since February 2020.
Other sectors that are still struggling include accommodation and food services; local government; durable goods manufacturing; arts, entertainment and recreation; and state government.
At the same time, a couple sectors have increased employment since the pandemic started. The nondurable goods manufacturing sector has added 4,100 jobs. Retail trade has added 3,100 jobs, transportation has added 2,700 jobs and management has added 1,500 jobs.
How does Iowa's economy compare to the country's?
Keeping pace with the rest of the country in April was a rarity for Iowa.
Both nationally and statewide, employers have now been hiring back workers for about two years since the initial shock of the pandemic. While Iowa did not lose as great of a share of jobs at the start the shutdowns, the state also has recovered much more slowly.
Over the last two years, the country has recovered 95% of jobs lost. Iowa, meanwhile, has recovered 86%.
The biggest difference between Iowa and the rest of the country is not the industries where Iowa has lost workers; it's the industries where the state has actually gained employment. Those sectors in Iowa haven't added workers at quickly as they have elsewhere.
The trade and transportation sector, which experienced growth as shoppers shifted to buying products and meals online, has seen an 11% growth in jobs in Iowa. But nationally, that sector has grown by 16%.
Manufacturers, meanwhile, have increased payrolls by 5% in Iowa, less than half of the 11% job growth across the country.
Iowa's professional and business services, education and health services, and construction sectors also have failed to keep up with national growth.
The state has slightly outperformed the country in government and mining jobs.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Unemployment rate in Iowa drops to 3% for April as job growth booms