Area unemployment creeping downward

While unemployment numbers are slowly creeping down in the area, they still have a ways to go before they are back to pre-pandemic levels.

From January to February, the unemployment rate in Henry County dropped from 4.5 percent to 4.1 percent, while the rate in Jefferson County dropped from 4.6 percent to 4.4 percent, according to statistics released by Iowa Workforce Development.

Washington County’s unemployment rate stayed at 4.8 percent for both months.

In February 2020, the last month before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to scale back or shut down altogether, area unemployment was much lower.

Henry County was at 3.3 percent in February 2020, 24.2 percent lower than the same month in 2021.

Washington County was also at 3.3 percent, 45.5 percent lower than February 2021.

In February 2020, Jefferson County reported the lowest unemployment in the area at 2.5 percent, 76 percent lower than in February 2021.

In surrounding counties, Keokuk County was the only county to see an increase in unemployment from 5.1 percent in January to 5.3 percent in February. In February 2020, Keokuk County was at 4.4 percent unemployment.

Rates in other counties were:

• Lee County – 5.9 percent, February 2021; 6.4 percent, January 2021; 4.2 percent, February 2020.

• Louisa County – 5.1 percent, February 2021; 5.4 percent, January 2021; 4.2 percent, February 2020.

• Van Buren County – 4.6 percent, February 2021; 4.7 percent, January 2021; 3.6 percent, February 2020.

• Wapello County - 5 percent, February 2021; 5.4 percent, January 2021; 3.8 percent, February 2020.

All area counties came in higher than the statewide rate of 3.6 percent in both January and February of this year. In February 2020, the state’s unemployment rate sat at 2.9 percent.

Southeast Iowa and the entire state, however, are faring better than the national average.

Nationally, unemployment dropped from 6.3 percent to 6.2 percent from January to February this year, but was at 3.5 percent in February 2020.