Unemployment in Clay County sits at 3.1 percent
Iowa's unemployment rate drops to 17-year low
Iowa's unemployment rate has reached a 17-year low for October of 3 percent. The rate is down from 3.2 percent in September. The Iowa workforce is comprised of 1,686,700 citizens eligible to work and 51,000 were reported as unemployed.
In Clay County, the unemployment figure is approximately 3.1 percent, down from a September percentage of 3.5 percent. The 3.1 percent represents 270 unemployed citizens in the county out of a labor force of 8,460 employed citizens. Clay County has a higher unemployment rate than all surrounding counties.
Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation CEO and President Kiley Miller said the unemployment rate is only one of many numbers he evaluates when determining the strength of the economy.
"We don't really think too much about the unemployment rate," Miller said. "To the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, the labor participation rate is a much more telling statistic for the health of the economy. We monitor the unemployment rate, but there is an understanding that when you get down as low as Iowa is now, the relevance of unemployment rate to economic development is somewhat limited. When we look at the labor participation rate which is going up nationwide, that suggests that quality jobs are being created."
Miller said a low unemployment rate can have a downside.
"Businesses will be very hesitant to put new locations in counties with unemployment rates below two percent," Miller said. "Where will their workers come from? So while the public sees a slightly higher unemployment rate in Clay County and says what is wrong? Economic development sees a marketing advantage. We can presume that slowdowns at Eaton and Polaris did have an impact (on the unemployment rate)."
Iowa Workforce Development communications director Cory Kelly said along with a low unemployment rate that many sectors of the economy have been expanding.
"The Iowa economy has been very steady and adding jobs consistently over the past several years," Kelly said. "Additionally, several sectors are expanding in Iowa including manufacturing, finance and health care and social assistance."
Kelly said a low unemployment rate may cause employers to pay more to fill positions with qualified and skilled workers. It may also allow people to have more disposable income and thus spend more requiring businesses to hire more employees.
Miller said northwest Iowa is growing in many sectors.
"We are seeing growth everywhere," Miller said. "Manufacturing is showing strong signs of growth. We have emerging technology sectors as well as a strong health care sector. The one major head wind is low commodities prices because so much of what we make is sold to agriculture."
The local branch of Iowa Workforce Development, known as IowaWorks, attempts to connect out-of-work citizens with companies seeking employees.
"We try to help job seekers to find jobs if they are interested in staying in the area," IowaWorks Operations Manager Linda Gray said. "We also have about eight or 10 workshops that they can attend to help them prepare for the workforce. We have workshops that can help up skill the potential employee with skills such as interview skills. We also have a website homebaseiowa.gov and it connects veterans all over the country looking for work opportunities in Iowa."
IowaWorks has been in Spencer for more than 50 years. IowaWorks business marketing specialist Bob Becker said there are many great opportunities to enter the workforce in Spencer.
"Health care is a great opportunity right now," Becker said. "Truck drivers are a bright opportunity now. Skilled workers such as plumbers also have a great opportunity now."