Iowa Has More Job Postings Than Job Seekers. What Does That Mean for Businesses?
May 3, 2021
John Steppe, The Gazette
In Rhonda Griffin’s 26 years at Centro Inc. in North Liberty, it’s never been so difficult to fill positions.
“It’s taking so long to be able to hire,” said Griffin, the company’s human resources director. “The shortage in applicants is making it very difficult to even find candidates.”
The custom rotational molder manufacturer, which has about 400 employees and 30 openings, is not alone. Iowa has more job vacancies than job seekers, creating a challenging hiring environment for many employers.
Iowa Workforce Development’s IowaWORKS online job portal has 62,724 postings as of April 27.
But only 35,042 people filed for unemployment in the week ending April 24, according to preliminary data released by IWD.
Indeed, an online job site, had 28.6 percent more Iowa openings posted this past week than on Feb. 1, 2020, according to data released by the company. Nationwide, there were 22.4 percent more openings.
Barbra Solberg, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s public policy strategist, described it as a “multilayered, multifaceted” situation.
“This is an issue we’ve heard from our members for a very long time,” Solberg said.
“Although we had people unemployed from various industries, they didn’t have the skills — of no fault of their own — to fill the still-huge gap of jobs that were opening.”
Megan Schulte, vice president for human resources at Frontier Co-Op in Norway, said this challenge has been far from a surprise.
“Five years ago, we knew that there was going to be an issue finding the skill set we need in the manufacturing sector,” Schulte said. “But it’s finally starting to hit companies now.”
Frontier Co-Op has 30 to 40 openings, Schulte said, which are almost exclusively in its manufacturing division.
Kate Moreland, the president of Iowa City Area Development Group, said application fatigue during COVID-19 may be keeping some jobless Iowans from pursuing work.
“People were maybe looking earlier in the year and might have gotten some fatigue about looking,” Moreland said.
Many jobless Iowans have also faced challenges filing for unemployment, in some cases going more than a month in between payments. If someone does not file for unemployment, the worker is not counted as being unemployed.
Moreland and Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s Solberg both pointed to child care as another impediment to people reentering the workforce.
“Child care is definitely a big obstacle to employment and has been for a long time,” Solberg said.
“COVID made that problem even worse. … How do you put a third-grader in front of the computer all day when you’re at work?”
At the same time, the remote work trend has created more competition for Iowa’s workforce.
“There’s certainly a segment of our population that wants to continue remote working,” Moreland said.
“There are also more opportunities. Nationally being able to find a remote job just got a lot easier in the last six months.”
Moreland said some of that may change as vaccinations progress, though. More than 1 million Iowans have been vaccinated so far.
“As the percentage of vaccinations goes up and safety becomes less of a concern, I think we’ll start to see a return of people willing to be in those in-person roles,” Moreland said.
Some business leaders have pointed to the additional unemployment benefits from the federal relief bills as a reason for Iowans not working. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation offers an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits.
An analysis by The Gazette of information from Iowa Workforce Development shows only certain low-income individuals make more money directly through FPUC than holding down a job.
Someone without dependents would need to make less than $9.33 per hour to earn less working than on unemployment benefits. For people with four or more dependents, they would need to make less than $9.73 per hour.
That’s well below the Linn County individual median income, which is $34,626 or $16.65 per hour, but above Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
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