Every time I see a big positive TV ad for Terry Branstad, my first thought is – “What is it that we are not being told?” While he brags on employment under his administration, most observers understand that Iowa has lagged the national average and is well behind where they should be. What else is under the surface can be gleened from a report from the non-partisan Iowa Policy Project.
The Iowa Policy Project analyzes the numbers and places them in context of the whole picture. In a cold light without the rah-rah of a campaign these numbers can often be quite sobering. They also often suggest that to get to reasonable goals we need more concrete, less partisan solutions than are being proposed. Here is an excerpt from their last study of jobs and unemployment in Iowa:
Issued Friday, September 19, 2014
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa nonfarm jobs increased in August to 1,553,500, but the unemployment rate remained at 4.5 percent, down from 4.7 percent a year ago. The Iowa Policy Project today released the following statement by research associate Heather Gibney about the latest numbers:
“The month of August saw a very small increase in total nonfarm jobs, which is right in line with the fact that Iowa’s major job sectors lost about the same amount of jobs that were gained. Professional and business services and leisure and hospitality saw the largest gains while construction experienced the biggest loss.”
“It’s also important to look at long-term trends rather than one-month changes. Iowa is now above pre-recession job levels — but those jobs serve a 4.9 percent larger population, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The net job gain since the December 2007 start of the recession is only 28,600 — but 75,400 jobs were needed by now to keep up with population growth. Therefore, the state shows a job deficit of 46,800 jobs.”
In another study, Iowa Fiscal Policy (a subsidiary of IPP) reveals that as the campaign talks about Iowans gaining in the wage area, the reality is much different. With 1 in 8 Iowans below the poverty level, the trend has been up and continues in that direction:
“Nearly 1 in 8 Iowans were living in poverty in 2013, that’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four and $12,000 a year for an individual. These new Census numbers highlight the fact that many people have not yet recovered from the recession and shows the need to do more to help struggling Iowans afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, transportation and reliable child care,” said David Osterberg, founding director of the Iowa Policy Project, part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.
Other findings include:
* Iowa’s poverty rate of 12.7 percent compared with 11 percent in 2007 and 9.7 percent in 2001. There was no change from the 2012 poverty rate of 12.7 percent
* Child poverty was 15.7 percent in 2013 (about 111,119 children), up from 13.1 percent in 2007 and 12 percent in 2001.
* Median income was $52,229 in 2013, changing little from the 2001 inflation-adjusted dollars, but dropping from $53,132 in 2007.
Finally on the subject of food security, Iowa Fiscal Policy noted that while Iowa is doing better than many other states, there is still a problem and a trend that is troubling:
“While Iowans’ very low food security was lower than the national average of 5.7 percent, it was almost 50 percent higher than it had been only a decade before,” said Mike Owen, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, part of IFP. Owen noted that level had risen from a 3.0 percent average for 2001-03 to 4.4 percent in 2011-13.”
I thank Iowa Policy Project for their research which takes the hype out of the story and reports the facts. Members of the legislature would be well served to check into this research at least once a week to get a true look at what is going on.