SIOUX CITY — The unemployment rate in the Sioux City metro dropped to 2.9 percent in April, the lowest monthly rate in 16 years.

A total of 2,700 people were unemployed in the Sioux City Metropolitan Statistical Area in April, down 400 from the month of March, when the jobless rate stood at 3.4 percent, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

The last time the monthly local unemployment rate was below 3 percent was October 2001, according to state agency. The lowest rate on record dating back to 1990 was 2 percent in October 1999, at the tail end of the Gateway boom of the 1990s.

The Sioux City metro is defined as Woodbury and Plymouth counties in Iowa, Dakota and Dixon counties in Nebraska, and Union County in South Dakota.

With the latest drop in the local unemployment numbers, the Sioux City MSA rate is 0.2 percent lower than Iowa’s statewide average of 3.1 percent, which is at its lowest since February 2001, according to Cory Kelly, communications director of Iowa Workforce Development.

Kelly noted that employment in metro Sioux City is up 1,000 jobs from March. The leisure and hospitality and the professional and business services sectors each added 300 jobs, although the former area still provides 700 fewer jobs than it did a year prior.

“That is a core component of the unemployment rate there — the growth in those two sectors,” Kelly said. “We didn’t see any change in government, manufacturing and trade, no changes in transportation and warehousing.”

The falling unemployment comes as Seaboard Triumph Foods recruits more than 1,000 workers for the first shift of its $300 million pork plant, set to begin operations in late July.

Kelly pointed out is that the local job market had about 2,600 fewer jobs in April than it did a year ago, a leading factor in the month's historically low unemployment rate.

“You combine that with low unemployment rate in general across the state and you have an environment, which, you are where you are,” he said.

Areas with low unemployment rates are often considered to be a double-edged sword, depending on perspective, Kelly noted.

“When the unemployment rate goes down in an area, there’s often a correlation and a leading indicator in an increase in wages in an area, so the lower the unemployment rate goes, the more employers have to pay their employees to recruit and retain skilled talent,” he said.

“Depending on how you look at it, that can be a positive or a negative for the environment," he continued. "As a negative, it makes it more challenging for employers to recruit and retain those skilled employees; however, as a benefit, it affords new employees a higher rate of pay for the work that they are doing.”

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