DES MOINES, IOWA – Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.2 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was 3.8 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 4.7 percent in February. “Iowa took another step towards full employment with the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest level since 2001,” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “A large number of Iowans found work in February. This was evident in the establishment survey which showed Iowa businesses added 3,000 jobs this past month.”
The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 53,600 in February from 56,900 in January. The current estimate is 10,600 lower than the year ago level of 64,200. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,639,700 in February. This figure was 2,700 higher than January and 1,900 higher than one year ago.
Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment
Iowa businesses again expanded in February, adding 3,000 jobs and lifting total nonfarm employment to 1,580,400 jobs. Last month’s employment experienced a moderate revision downward and this month’s gain helps recover much of the drop. Private sectors were responsible for all of the growth this month as government shed jobs (-500) primarily at the local level. Despite this loss, government remains up 800 jobs annually and the state combined is up 10,900 jobs.
Among private sectors, education and health services added 1,800 jobs in February to lead all sectors. Education added the majority of the jobs (+1,300), although healthcare also expanded their payrolls (+500). Construction added jobs this month (+1,600) and this month’s gain could signify an earlier than usual start to the building season. Other gains this month included professional and business services which added jobs for the fourth-consecutive month, and finance which has steadily trended up since August. Losses this month were limited to just three sectors and led by leisure and hospitality (-900). This sector pared jobs evenly in both recreational activities and hospitality and eating and drinking places. Despite the monthly loss, this sector has fared well and added jobs annually (+2,000). Alternatively, information services again trended down this month (-400), as did manufacturing (-200) due to cutbacks in durable goods.
Annually, total nonfarm employment continues to slowly add employment and has been fueled by hiring in professional and business services (+4,200). This sector alone has been responsible for 39 percent of all annual job gains in the state. Finance continues to grow its footprint in Iowa and is up 3,000 jobs versus last year. Other sectors experiencing growth annually include trade and transportation (+2,400), education and health services (+2,000), and leisure and hospitality (+2,000). Annual losses have been largest in manufacturing (-4,000) and wholly limited to durable goods factories. Information is the only other sector to pare jobs versus last year (-1,400).
Visit www.iowalmi.gov for more information about current and historical data, labor force data, nonfarm employment, hours and earnings, and jobless benefits by county.
There have been -no- cases reported in Iowa, but a strain of bird flu that’s deadly to humans has already killed 140 people in China. The U-S-D-A’s head veterinarian, Dr. Jack Shere, says the agency is preparing to fight the strain should it be found here. Shere says it’s possible migrating wild birds could bring the killer strain over from China which is why vigilance is so important.
“We look at the 21 biggest poultry states and we test wild birds throughout the year in those states to make sure that we have an early warning notice if this virus is changed, if we got a new virus,” Shere says, “that we have we have an awareness and we can pick it up.”
An outbreak of a different strain of bird flu in 2015 resulted in the destruction of more than 31-million chickens and turkeys in Iowa and an economic loss to the state of $1.2 billion dollars. The disease was confirmed at 77 Iowa poultry operations in 18 counties. Shere says producers need to button up their flocks.
“Basically it’s a hurdle concept,” Shere says. “What can I put in place that will prevent the virus or eliminate the virus so I don’t bring it into my facility? We have to consider the environment often as contaminated and anything we’re bringing into the house has a potential to bring the disease.”
There were bird flu outbreaks this year in Tennessee and Wisconsin, but federal health officials say the risk to people from those strains is low.
(Radio Iowa, w/Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)
Cass County: Corn $3.07, Beans $9.14
Adair County: Corn $3.04, Beans $9.17
Adams County: Corn $3.04, Beans $9.13
Audubon County: Corn $3.06, Beans $9.16
East Pottawattamie County: Corn $3.10, Beans $9.14
Guthrie County: Corn $3.09, Beans $9.18
Montgomery County: Corn $3.09, Beans $9.16
Shelby County: Corn $3.10, Beans $9.14
Oats $2.01 (always the same in all counties)
(Information from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency offices)
The U.S. Senate Ag Committee will begin a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee to be U-S Ag Secretary today (Thursday). Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is a member of the committee. “This is a very important confirmation for all of us across the Midwest because this confirmation will impact us greatly,” Ernst says.
President Trump announced in January that he wanted former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to lead the U.S.D.A. Perdue was the final member of Trump’s cabinet to be revealed. Midwestern supporters of Trump raised some concerns at the time. No member of Trump’s cabinet comes from the Midwest despite Trump’s election wins in Midwestern states like Iowa.
Ernst says there are “big topics” Perdue will be asked to address during his confirmation hearing. “Where is his support for renewable energy such as our biodiesel and corn ethanol?” Ernst asks. “Because that is really big for Iowans.”
Ernst also wants to ask Perdue how he may restructure the Conservation Reserve Program. “We have a lot of farms out there that are being put the CRP, subsidized by the government. It’s productive land that should be out there. The CRP was originally supposed to protect vulnerable lands,” Ernst says. “…We also want to know that crop insurance is going to be available in the future for our farmers as well.”
Perdue’s confirmation hearing was delayed, in part, because it’s taken Perdue a while to unravel from his sizable business interests. Perdue, who served two terms as Georgia’s governor, has placed his assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. The 70-year-old Perdue briefly worked as a veterinarian before serving in the U.S. Air Force. After the military, he started four farm-related companies but is NOT related or affiliated with Perdue Farms, the country’s fourth-largest chicken producer.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a super-sized flock of birds! Iowans are seeing huge congregations of feathered creatures filling the morning and evening skies, giant clouds of birds that often take several minutes to pass. Steve Dinsmore, a central Iowa ornithologist and bird watcher, says it’s typical during the spring and fall to see the birds migrating in tremendously large numbers over Iowa.
“Those could represent a number of different species of birds,” Dinsmore says. “One of them is European starlings, so we call those a murmuration of starlings. We also, right now, have very, very large numbers of blackbirds, primarily redwing blackbirds and common grackles, and also other species that are also migrating. Those birds, just like starlings, form these large, wavy, meandering flocks.”
Dinsmore is a professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University. He says birds of a feather do flock together for several reasons. “One of them certainly deals with predator avoidance, a sort of safety-in-numbers component,” Dinsmore says. “These birds also feed en mass so one of the other advantages of them associating in flocks is the transfer of information about foraging sites or feeding sites. They do that through these large flocks as they’ve moving to and from roosting and feeding areas.”
The miles-long undulating flocks are fascinating to watch and may contain tens of thousands of birds, perhaps more. “One of the real fun questions to try and answer is, ‘How many are there?’ and certainly, those flocks are very, very large, to the point where you can’t count individuals,” Dinsmore says. “Sometimes, we use estimation techniques or approximation techniques. Pushing 100,000 is pretty unusual but there are records in the hundreds of thousands and some estimates even up to a million individuals.”
Robins are out in plentiful numbers this spring, and some Iowans who live in larger cities are being surprised to spot wild turkeys in their back yards, though they’re typically thought of as county birds. “Those birds, in some cases, do pretty well in urban environments,” Dinsmore says. “It also turns out, because we just came off of a really mild winter, many species of birds, turkeys included and other game birds and other song birds, probably are going to do really well this year because they were able to survive what turned out to be a relatively mild winter.”
The waterfowl migration is also at its peak now in Iowa and in some areas, “spectacular numbers” of geese and ducks have arrived early and are staying later.
Officials with the Iowa DNR say the Grand River Grasslands Bird Conservation Area will be at center stage on April 8th for the 14th Annual Prairie Chicken Festival, originating from the viewing platform on 300th Avenue, southwest of Kellerton.
Viewers should plan to arrive early as the best viewing occurs at dawn. The event will proceed until the birds diminish their courtship dancing and booming, which is around 9:30 a.m. Prairie chickens were reintroduced to the area and each spring their courtship dances occur where their booming calls resonate across southern Iowa hills and valleys.
Spotting scopes, binoculars, cameras and phones will be trained on capturing the images and sounds of the unique mating ritual that is part dance, part combat, and part haunting symphony. Iowa’s prairie chickens are only found in Ringgold County.
Campers anxious to reserve spots for the Fourth of July weekend should mark March 31 on their calendars, when reservations for a Friday arrival open. Campers can make reservations for sites three months ahead of their first night’s stay. Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau, says “Electric sites go quickly. And some sites will already be reserved by campers arriving prior to the holiday weekend.”
Not every campsite is available on the reservation system. Parks maintain between 25 and 50 percent of the electric and nonelectric sites as non-reservation sites, available for walk-up camping.
Information on Iowa’s state parks is available online at www.iowadnr.gov/stateparks including the link to reservations. Campers can also log on directly to http://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com; enter their preferred dates and/or parks to see what sites are available and make a reservation.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports the River Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Park in Council Bluffs is scheduled to reopen for riding Saturday, April 1st. The park was closed due to safety concerns over flood-damaged trees. Loggers recently completed work removing potentially hazardous trees and trails are now re-established.
More than 80 volunteers recently helped with final clean-up and preparation for opening. Due to safety concerns and to sustain the work recently completed, riders are reminded they cannot go off trail or make new trails.
River Valley is open to ATV, off-road motorcycles and side-by-sides that are 65 inches in width or less. Riders must have their machines registered with their county recorder’s office or with an ELSI vendor for nonresident user permits. ELSI vendors can be found where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Riders who are ages 12 through 17 are required to have a valid ATV education certificate in their possession. Operators of side-by-sides must possess a valid driver’s license. For more information about park rules, go to www.dnriowa.gov/ohv
Iowans are continuing to gather donations to help cattlemen across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who were hit hard by recent wildfires. Iowa Cattlemen’s Association communications director, Katie Olthoff, says an auction is planned on April 7th to raise money to help “We know there are a lot of needs out there as producers in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas begin to rebuild,” Olthoff says. “They are going to need things like fencing supplies, milk replacer for their calves, hay of course, and eventually they’ll need some replacement livestock. So we want to provide as much cash as possible to help them get what they need to get back on their feet.”
They hope the auction will bring in cash that can go toward purchasing the needed items. She says they are partnering with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation, Dream-Dirt Farm and Ranch Real Estate for the online auction fundraiser. “We’re hoping to get some really great donations. We’ve got some equipment donated, we’ve got some beer and some cattle donated. We’re working some vacation packages right now that will be on that auction,” Olthoff says.
She says you don’t have to be a cattle producer to take part in the auction or to donate to the cause. “Iowans are generous and eager to help when they see people who are hurting and in need of help. And so, we want to make this open to everybody and get as much involvement as we possibly can,” Olthoff says.
Olthoff says Iowa farmers have been quick to respond as they know it could easily have been them who were hit by the disaster. “In our farming communities we know that it often takes generations — decades — to build a successful farm and most of us in the ag community are hoping to pass that on to our children,” Olthoff explains. “So, I think when we see other farmers hurting, wherever it is, we are willing to help out.”
Olthoff says you can got to the Iowa Cattlemen’s website at: www.iacattlemen.org for more information on the auction. She says there’s auction information on the site as well as information on some of the things that have been donated. Olthoff says they are still taking donations for the auction which will be Friday April 7th at 10 o’clock. “You can also bid beforehand if you’d like to participate that way too,” Olthoff says.
Many Iowans have already donated hay already, and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is helping match those donations with transportation.