DES MOINES — Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March dropped to 4.9 percent from 5.0 percent in February and was substantially below the year ago rate of 5.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 percent in February.
“As Iowa continues to rebuild its labor force, the Skilled Iowa Initiative is a critical step in improving the quality of job seekers across the state,” said Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “The initiative provides assurances to employers that job candidates have the skills and abilities to fill job openings.”
The estimate of unemployed persons for March decreased slightly to 80,700 from 82,300 in February. The comparable figure for March 2012 was 88,500.
Iowa’s total employment has been gradually increasing over the past six months, reaching 1,562,200 in March. The current figure is up from 1,555,100 in February and 1,561,200 in March 2012.
Total nonfarm employment decreased by 5,500 jobs in March, dropping the level to 1,517,200 from 1,522,700 in February. This month’s loss is the first since December and heavily influenced by weak hiring in seasonal industries, especially construction, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality. Despite the drop, nonfarm employment is 11,000 higher than one year ago (+0.7 percent).
Education and health services added 800 jobs in March, leading all sectors in growth. The gain was fueled entirely by hiring in the healthcare industry (+900), and more than offset last month’s drop in health services, the first since June 2011. Manufacturing added 500 jobs with this month’s gain concentrated in nondurable goods factories. Manufacturing has started 2013 on a positive note, increasing by 3,700 jobs this year. Finance posted the only other gain for March (+300), and is currently 1,700 jobs higher than the same month one year ago. On the other hand, leisure and hospitality reported the largest loss in March, down 2,000 jobs. Hiring was slower than expected in arts and entertainment, although accommodations and food services also shed jobs (-800). Construction followed with a loss of 1,300 jobs, and professional and business services declined by 1,100.
Despite this month’s performance, nonfarm employment has continued to trend upward versus last year. Manufacturing continues to lead all sectors in annual job gains, up 7,000 (+3.3 percent). Education and health services is up 2,000 jobs over the year, followed by financial activities, up 1,700. Information incurred the largest job losses from one year ago (-1,400). Construction reflected a loss of 800 from one year ago, and leisure and hospitality was down 300.