County unemployment falls to 2.9 percent

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Sam Curry

currysam@grinnell.edu

Poweshiek County’s unemployment rate dropped below three percent last month, two full percentage points below the national average of five percent reported by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Iowa Workforce Development, the county unemployment for November was 2.9 percent, down from three percent in September. The unemployment rate has also dropped over the last year, from 3.7 percent a year ago.

Given the small population of the county, this only involves a few more hundred people finding jobs, yet still represents a gain for Poweshiek.

10,530 adults are employed in Poweshiek County, compared to only 320 unemployed. 

According to Laura Manatt, Executive Director of Poweshiek Iowa Development, this low unemployment rate is due to the high amount of sustainable work opportunities in the county.

“Everyone is finding sustainable employment or necessary training to continue to move up at their place of employment,” Manatt wrote in an email to The S&B.

Manatt also attested to the diverse range of industries and educational opportunities in the county as a reason for low unemployment.

“Good news is the majority of people looking for good career opportunities can find something here in the county. We have been working with businesses and industry, K-12 schools and community college[s] to address this,” Manatt wrote.

This point speaks especially true in the City of Grinnell, which contains both Grinnell College and Iowa Valley Community College. The City also benefits from a Monsanto plant, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and a host of small businesses and restaurants, to which the signs approaching Grinnell on Interstate 80 attest.

The unemployment rate for last month is the lowest since November of 2001, when the rate was just 2.8 percent. This low rate seems to reflect a strong recovery from the so-called Great Recession of 2007-08 that resulted in unemployment rates above 10 percent across the county. Although Manatt did not rule out the possibility of this strong recovery, she said she had not been working in the county long enough to speak to the county’s development since the recession.

Although satisfied with their economic development, workers at the Iowa Workforce Development and businesses of Poweshiek County are not content to rest on their laurels. Instead, they are working out a plan to lower unemployment in the county even further and help those people who are currently employed find and keep sustainable employment.

“We will be unveiling a plan in January to address unemployment in our county … [and] we are working on a [vision] for Poweshiek County specific to employment,” Manatt wrote.