Fact Check: Iowa replaces pandemic job loss

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Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 3:46 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - With October’s jobs report, Iowa Workforce Development announced Wednesday the state has “overcome” the jobs lost during the shutdowns of the pandemic despite the state’s total employment still lagging behind March 2020 levels.

CLAIM: “Strong hiring across the state, including in October, has helped Iowa regain a total of 170,700 jobs—overcoming the 169,800 jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development upon releasing October’s jobs report.

ANALYSIS: October’s jobs report for Iowa, released Thursday, shows the state unemployment rate fell to 2.7% compared to 4% a year ago as the state continues to rebuild the economic loss from the pandemic. The full report includes a lot of numbers, but this claim centers on employment - or the number of jobs - in Iowa.

The report uses two separate sources of data, according to the Iowa Workforce Development.

The unemployment rate most often cited is derived from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics. This is a monthly survey of individuals asking if a person has a job or not. According to that data, total employment in Iowa hit 1,662,400 in October 2022. That’s still 24,200 fewer people employed than in March 2020.

However, the state is making its claim citing the non-farm employment. This number is from the Current Employment Statistics survey, which surveys businesses on the number of employees they have. By that count, Iowa employment hit 1,584,600 in October, surpassing the 1,583,700 in March 2020.

The individual survey is most commonly cited in public reporting a state unemployment rate. However, this rate counts people with two jobs only once and leaves out people who live out of state but work in Iowa. As the name suggests, the non-farm employment omits farm employees but also leaves out the self-employed, some government jobs and non-profit employment and does not account for people who live in Iowa but work in another state or remotely for an out-of-state company.

Iowa Workforce Development says several factors could explain why one survey shows Iowa has recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic while the other shows a shortcoming. Those include the lingering effects of the pandemic on the economy still impacting farm hiring, non-profit staffing and self-employment; the number of people having more than one job; Iowa companies hiring people from out of state or to work remotely, or just sampling margin of error.

Given the differences, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says it is not surprising for the surveys to produce different estimates from month to month but the trends generally line up over time. It says each survey has drawbacks and benefits and which survey is best to use is “a judgment call”.

CONCLUSION: Either measurement shows Iowa’s job market has grown steadily in recovery since the Pandemic. It’s also uncertain how much new economic factors, like inflation, impact replacing jobs lost during the Pandemic. The more often cited number in public reporting shows Iowa still has a little way to go in its job recovery - but an equally valid way of measuring shows Iowa’s job market is back to 2020 levels. That’s why this claim gets a ‘B’.