Digging a little deeper on Iowa jobs

Colin Gordon

Colin Gordon

Governor Branstad’s claim that Iowa’s economy has created 100,000 jobs in two years is nonsense. We make this case in this morning’s Des Moines Register, pointing out that the Governor’s measure counts (and miscounts at that) only one side of the ledger. The actual jobs record since January 2011 is a net of 18,700 nonfarm jobs.

Here are a couple of graphs to underscore this point. The first traces the trajectory of job creation in Iowa, the West North Central States, the entire Midwest, and the country as a whole. These are plotted with a common starting point: December 2007 (the start of the recession) is set at “100” for each measure, so that each line shows the percentage change in employment over time. The Branstad Administration (since January 2011) is shaded in yellow.

What jumps out here is a simple fact. There is nothing exceptional about the Iowa experience. Our job numbers closely track national and regional trends, although — as with the rest of the West North Central Region — insulation from the housing crash and high commodity prices cushioned us from the full impact of the recession. And the rate at which we are adding jobs (much too slowly) is virtually identical to that of the region and the nation.

Figure 1. Iowa Job Trends Follow Regional and National Trends

Basic RGB

What about the actual job creation record in Iowa? Figure 2 below plots the month-by-month gains (and losses) in nonfarm jobs since December 2007. Again, the period since January 2011 — the focus of the Governor’s claims — is shaded in yellow. Over that 22-month span, we gained jobs in 14 months and lost jobs in the other eight—for a net gain of 18,700 jobs, or about 850 jobs per month. There is nothing exceptional about this. Indeed, in the year preceding the current administration (January 2010 to January 2011) we added about 13,000 nonfarm jobs — over 1,000 per month.

Figure 2. Iowa Jobs Both Gain and Fall Over Last Two Years

Basic RGB

Posted by Colin Gordon, Senior Research Associate

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2 Comments on “Digging a little deeper on Iowa jobs”


  1. [...] trends. And it’s an important political moment — especially as Governors around the country (and here in Iowa) have tied policy and budgetary decisions to job creation or employment [...]


  2. […] of the inability to count, Governor Terry Branstad’s administration has touted misleading “job creation” numbers for a long time, but the latest propaganda is “inflated” even if you accept the governor’s […]


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