County's unemployment rate spikes 65 percent

Courtesy: Iowa Workforce DevelopmentA map of southeast Iowa's unemployment statistics, by county, for the month of November.

Statistics without context can be a dangerous thing.

Last month, the Iowa Workforce Development said that unemployment in Appanoose County was 4.3 percent for the month of November. The jump would appear on the surface to be significant, as it represented a 65 percent increase from October's numbers.

With that jump, Appanoose County has become the highest county in the state in terms of its unemployment rate, by a large amount. The second-highest county in the state from November's numbers was a 3.0 percent unemployment rate experienced by Lee County.

But, why the jump and is it cause for concern?

It appears the jump may be a bit of bad timing for Appanoose County. In November, as is sometimes the case for manufacturing near the end of the year, at least one major manufacturer had a significant, but temporary, layoff of its employees.

That's why the numbers aren't much of a concern to Appanoose Economic Development Director Sarah Lind.

The struggles of Appanoose County's local economy, she said, isn't unemployment but rather the numerous open jobs and employers struggling to keep up amid staffing challenges. Lind reports there is in excess of 200 open jobs in the county currently.

"We need more people," Lind said. "We'll have another industry at the [industrial] park this spring. One of the other industries out there is looking to expand, again. I think those are all really positive things.

"And I don't know when they take those polls. It could have just been terrible timing."

A 4.3 percent unemployment still wouldn't have been terrible news for the county. Many economists would consider that to mean a community is fully employed.

Appanoose County had spent nearly all year under the four percent threshold, after clocking in at 4.1 percent unemployment in January 2018.

Statewide Iowa holds one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. For the most recent November data, Iowa tied with Hawaii for the lowest unemployment rate.

In Appanoose County, October's rate of 2.6 percent unemployed was the lowest the rate has been for the area since at least 2000, as far back as readily available records show.

New numbers for December's unemployment are expected later this month.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Daily Iowegian and can be reached at kocker@dailyiowegian.com or by calling (641) 856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker

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Editor

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Daily Iowegian. Prior to becoming editor, Ocker was a correspondent, sports editor and associate editor at the Daily Iowegian, and was the managing editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express.