Iowa Policy Project: Is Iowa’s Job Situation As Good As It Appears?

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Once again our friends at the Iowa Policy Project ferret out the reality behind the glossy glow of political rhetoric. The subject for today is whether what appears to be a good Iowa jobs report is actually as good as it appears. In their newsletter that came out just after Christmas, the analysts take a close look at Iowa’s job numbers and where they should be.

From the IPP blog of December 27th, IPP points out that:   

“Over a decade since the housing bubble burst in late 2007, and almost nine years since the start of the recovery, we are far from where we should be in job growth, wages, and economic security.


Just to keep pace with growth in the working-age population (about 7 percent since 2007), while sustaining pre-recession rates of employment and labor force participation, we should have added (as of last month) 106,100 net jobs over that span. Instead, we gained back only 67,800 jobs — leaving a jobs deficit of 38,300.  For the latest numbers, see our monthly “JobWatch” report.

In turn, we face another persistent deficit: a shortage of good jobs. In our State of Working Iowa discussion of wages, we underscored remarkably weak wage growth in Iowa despite historically low rates of unemployment.

This partly reflects the lack of worker bargaining power: Without access to collective bargaining and robust, well-enforced labor standards, there is little prospect of winning wage real and lasting gains. And in part, this reflects the changing contours of Iowa’s labor market. Over the last generation, and across the last business cycle, we are steadily trading good jobs for bad.” (bolding mine)

This is a very sober eyed look at what is really going on in Iowa’s economy. IPP did a great job of cutting through the fog to show what reality is. What they nor anyone else can really do is to be able to assess how the policies fostered by the Trump administration are going to affect Iowa’s economy.

Trump’s tariff policies have put Iowa’s farm economy in a world of hurt. I will be honest that I do not understand where the tariff battles between China and the US stand at the moment. From what I can glean there are some vague discussions going on concerning the boycott that China is employing in retaliation to Trump’s tariff policies. Planning for planting season is happening now and loans must be secured. If this issue is not resolved what will be the consequences?

At the same time the country is beginning to see what looks like the bursting of some of the bubbles in the economy that have been built over the past couple of years. When things are sorted out, where will Iowa’s economy land? How will Iowa be affected?  

One other thing not mentioned that is becoming a drag on the economy is student debt. With the cost of post secondary education having been so high in this country over a relatively long period, we are seeing the up and coming generation saddled with hefty debt and high interest that must be paid on before they can even consider buying newer cars or homes. 

As with the tariff policies and the bubbles bursting the policies that put our coming generation into deep debt before they even get a job are the result of Republican policy decisions. These are policy decisions that could be changed. Republicans will not do so. The reason they became policy in the first place is that they rewarded some segment of the Republican donor class. So expecting those who benefit to change the policies that benefit them just won’t happen.

Until Iowa is willing to face up to the mediocre and poor results by electing new leadership, expect to keep getting the same results.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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