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Iowa Job Growth Doing Okay, But More Employees Needed

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — One of Governor Terry Branstad’s biggest campaign promises four years ago was that he would create 200,000 jobs over a 5-year period. He was in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, using job creation to campaign for another term in office.

The Governor’s office claims Iowa has created more than 120,000 new jobs since taking office, not counting jobs lost. Looking at Iowa Workforce Development data, total employment in Iowa has only added 52,000 jobs since January 2011.

Despite that big discrepancy, employers and business leaders we spoke with at the annual ABI conference Tuesday said the issue isn’t creating jobs, but finding people to fill those jobs.

Employers like Mark Hanawalt, president of United Equipment Accessories, said there’s a lot of positive energy here.

“The environment we’re in right now is very positive for business, and helps us create the opportunities to employ more people,” Hanawalt told us, adding that goes for growing their businesses, too.

Hanawalt’s Waverly-based company that manufactures rotary components for wind turbines is starting a 14,000 square foot expansion this week. But with that growth comes the need for more employees.

“We’re just not generating enough people for those high-tech businesses to satisfy the demand we have,” said Hanawalt.

ABI president Mike Ralston said more Iowans need to be trained for jobs in manufacturing jobs and other sectors.

“Iowa’s community colleges in general are doing great work in helping us address that need,” said Ralston. “That is key.”

Jim Roy with QPS Employment Group said although Iowa’s unemployment rate is the 7th lowest in the nation, matching applicants with jobs has been a challenge.

“I don’t know if we’d go so far as to say epidemic, but we’re creeping up in certain parts of the state on it being an epidemic of too many jobs, and not enough people,” Roy explained.

Governor Branstad toured the grand opening of a Cedar Rapids call center Tuesday afternoon, touting initiatives to prepare and train more Iowans for the workforce, and keep military veterans in the state.

“45,000 Iowans in the last two years have taken this National Career Readiness Certificate, and then we try to match up people who have those qualifications with companies looking for people with those qualifications.”

According to Iowa Workforce Development, unemployment fell from an average of 5.8% in 2011, down to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.3% as of April this year.

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