Iowa’s Recession: The Movie

Iowa’s cycle of recession and recovery: Like a lot of summer movies, it starts dramatically and then drags on and on.

Colin Gordon
Colin Gordon

OK, it’s not likely to offer much competition for World War Z or the Hangover 3, but this short video does provide a compelling look at Iowa’s slide into recession, and slow progress to recovery.

The unemployment rate, by county, is shaded from light to dark blue. And, as the months unfold from January 2007, the line graph at the bottom traces the trajectory of the recession — the blue line showing Iowa’s unemployment rate, the red showing that for the whole country.

Iowa escapes the early months of the national recession (which begins in December of 2007), but then sees the unemployment rate jump from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent in late 2008.  It would be 32 months (September 2011) before it was back below 6 percent to stay, and another 20 months (to this March) to settle back below 5 percent.  Like a lot of summer movies, it starts dramatically and then drags on and on.

The final scene shows how little progress we’ve made, underscoring the magnitude of a jobs deficit composed of both the jobs we’ve lost, and those we’ve failed to create for new entrants to the labor force.  It’s not a happy ending, but it has that gritty realism that the Oscar voters love.

Unemployment in Iowa, 2007-2013 from Colin Gordon on Vimeo.

Posted by Colin Gordon, Senior Research Consultant

Author: iowapolicypoints

Iowa Policy Points is a blog of Common Good Iowa, a new organization built on a collective 50 years of experience of two respected Iowa organizations — the Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Learn more at

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