While the unemployment rate continues to ease in Lee County, the state of Iowa and the nation, Lee County still holds the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the state.
According to Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa’s unemployment rate overall for March, which is the most recent numbers available, was 4.9 percent. Lee County at that time, however sat at 7.7 percent.
Those numbers have continued to trend downward in the past year. Last March Iowa’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent and Lee County’s was 8.3 percent.
Only four counties in Iowa saw an increase in unemployment rate, including the county with the second highest rate of 7.2 percent in Jones County, which is the county directly east of Linn County.
The other counties seeing increases were Bremer, Audobon and Decatur counties.
Several counties had some amazing gains in jobs.
Jasper County, for example, briefly took the title of highest unemployment rate from Lee County last year when it had a 9 percent unemployment rate compared to Lee County’s 8.3.
Jasper County now sits at 6.6 percent unemployment. That is still higher than the state average but moving quickly in the right direction.
Education and health services added 800 jobs in March, leading all sectors in growth. According to IWD, the gain was fueled by hiring in the health care industry with the addition of 900 jobs 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 adding 300 jobs and currently is 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 800 jobs. Construction followed with a loss of 1,300 jobs; although construction in Lee County should be up with workers at the fertilizer plant starting to arrive.
Professional and business services declined by 1,100.
There was a decrease in nonfarm employment of 5,500 in March, which was the first time since December the state has seen a decrease in that area, but nonfarm unemployment is still up 11,000 from this time last year.
IWD reports the decrease is due to weak hiring in seasonal industries like construction, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality.
Even with that hiring slowdown in the nonfarm sectors, numbers have continued to trend upward in the last year with manufacturing leading all sectors with annual job gains of 7,000 jobs or 3.3 percent.
Education and health services are up 2,000 jobs and financial activities is up 1,700.
Information saw the largest job loss from a year ago, losing 1,400 and construction lost 800 jobs from last year.