Low jobless rate creates issues
Dropping unemployment numbers are a good thing, right?
According to Tammy Robinson, director of New Hampton Economic Development, although low unemployment numbers do mean that more people in the workforce have jobs — which is good — those numbers also present many challenges for communities such as New Hampton.
“It causes different issues,” she said. “It means there isn’t a very big pool of qualified employees for a business to draw from. We have businesses here that want to expand but can’t because they can’t find the people.”
Iowa Workforce Development reported last week that the unemployment rate in Iowa declined slightly in September, down to 3.2 percent. The August rate was 3.3 percent. There were 1.63 million Iowa residents with jobs in September, an increase of about 4,500 from August. Iowa's unemployment rate compares to a national rate of 4.2 percent.
As for New Hampton, Robinson said the city’s unemployment rate was even lower, at 3.0 percent in August, and she suspects it probably dipped to lower than that in September.
“I don’t yet have the numbers beyond August, but I would bet that it has dropped slightly,” she said. “There are jobs out there. Right now, it’s an employee’s world.”
The state of Iowa considers a two percent jobless rate to be full employment, as about two percent of all employable people are unable to work at any given time, for a variety of reasons.
Robinson said the biggest challenge for companies in and around the New Hampton area — and throughout the state of Iowa in general — is a lack of skilled workers.
“Skilled workers refers to everything from maintenance, to welding, to mechanical jobs — you name it, almost every job takes a trained skill nowadays,” she said. “These jobs pay well, but businesses can’t fill them. Right now, I have about four companies that have been looking for employees for different types of maintenance positions, and they’re still looking.”
Robinson said there are a lot of reasons the area doesn’t have enough people.
“First of all, we have a hard time retaining our students here, they tend to want to leave,” she said. “Workforce housing is also an issue in New Hampton and throughout Chickasaw County. People used to call them starter homes, but whatever you want to call them, we just don’t have enough of them.”
For more of this article, see Tuesday's New Hampton Tribune.