Iowa Endures Largest Monthly Increase in Unemployment in Quarter Century

The new numbers released late last week by Iowa Workforce Development continue to highlight the worst employment trend the Hawkeye State has faced in more than three decades.

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.1 in April to 5.8 percent in May – the biggest net and percentage increase in more than 24 years.

Since January 1976, Iowa has endured a double-digit percentage month-to-month increase in unemployment in only two months: January 1985 (23.5 percent) and May 2009 (13.7 percent).

Largest Monthly Percentage Increases in Unemployment in Iowa, 1976-2009

Month
Rate
% Increase
January 1985
8.4
23.5
May 2009
5.8
13.7
January 2009
4.8
9.1
March 2009
5.2
6.1
December 1979
4.9
4.3

The net 0.7-point increase in May 2009 is also the second largest net jump in unemployment during this 33+ year span.

Over the past four decades, Iowa has had a remarkably stable workforce and, since January 1976, unemployment has risen by more than one-tenth of a percent in just 8 out of 400 months. However, three of these largest net increases have occurred in 2009.

Largest Monthly Net Increases in Unemployment in Iowa, 1976-2009

Month
Rate
Net Increase
January 1985
8.4
1.6
May 2009
5.8
0.7
January 2009
4.8
0.4
March 2009
5.2
0.3
December 1979
4.9
0.2
April 1980
5.4
0.2
August 1980
5.9
0.2
December 1981
7.6
0.2

Iowa has had by far the most stable unemployment numbers throughout the Upper Midwest since the 1970s.

By contrast, Minnesota has had the largest number of months with a greater than 0.1-point increase in unemployment in the region, with more than 8 times as many months (65) with such increases as Iowa (8).

Wisconsin is close behind with 64 months, followed by North and South Dakota.

Months With More Than 0.1-Point Increase in Unemployment by State, 1976-2009

State
Months
Minnesota
65
Wisconsin
64
North Dakota
54
South Dakota
34
Iowa
8

Iowa Governor Chet Culver has not fared well politically during this economic downturn. Culver finished out 2008 strong with a 57 percent approval rating in December. However, that rating fell to 50 percent in January and then below the 50 percent mark in each of the five subsequent monthly polls, currently settling at 42 percent in June (SurveyUSA).

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