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Iowa unemployment rate holds steady at 4.9 percent

Published: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 11:47 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:11 p.m. CDT

DES MOINES — Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December was unchanged at 4.9 percent. The current rate is seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than the year ago rate of 5.6 percent. The U.S. jobless rate for December was also the same as the prior month, remaining at 7.8 percent.

“The modest pace of job growth in 2012 managed to drop the state’s unemployment rate below 5.0 percent in the final months of the year,” said Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “The December data also reflected a stronger hiring pattern in construction, which was reflected in both monthly and annual job gains.”

The number of unemployed Iowans decreased slightly to 80,000 in December from 80,200 in November. The level stood at 93,400 one year ago.

The total number of working Iowans edged down to 1,558,600 in December from 1,560,500 in November. The December figure compared with 1,573,300 for December 2011.   

Total nonfarm employment added a slight 300 jobs in December, bringing the total to 1,494,200. The monthly gain in the goods-producing industries was fueled by hiring in the construction sector, while losses in retail trade hampered private service growth this month.

Construction added 1,400 jobs in December, the most of any sector. The increase was partially due to growth in specialty trade contractors. Additionally, this sector added jobs in three of the last four months, and is now up 4,400 jobs since September.  Both professional and business services and leisure and hospitality added 800 jobs this month. Education and health services advanced by 500 jobs with most of the gain centered in educational services. On the other hand, trade and transportation declined by 1,400 jobs this month.  Within this super sector, retail and wholesale trade posted losses of 1,700 and 900, respectively; while transportation grew by 1,200. Government decreased by 900 jobs, and manufacturing lost 600 jobs following two months of larger-than-expected gains.

The December nonfarm employment total was 14,400 higher than one year ago.