SIOUX CITY | For the second consecutive month, metro Sioux City's unemployment rate stayed at 2.9 percent, matching a 16-year low.
About 2,600 people were counted as unemployed in the Sioux City Metropolitan Statistical Area in May, a decline of 100 from the previous month, according to data from Iowa Workforce Development. The metro area added 1,500 jobs last month.
Local economic development leaders pointed out that having a low unemployment rate presents a bit of a mixed bag, especially in a region where so many employers are seeking to increase the size of their workforce.
“The continued unemployment numbers under 3 percent in Siouxland are a reflection of a strong, thriving economy,” said Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce/Siouxland Initiative. “Such a tight labor market, however, does make it more difficult for tri-state businesses to find qualified workers."
Seaboard Triumph Foods is in the midst of opening a $300 million pork plant that will employ up to 2,000 by next spring. Other Siouxland employers large and small are trying to fill staffing vacancies.
“There are still numerous, good-paying employment opportunities at well-established companies in the area for those who want to work hard and contribute to the success of our local businesses and the community at large,” Sloniker said. “When coupled with all of the amenities Siouxland has to offer, this truly sets us apart as a community poised for continued growth.”
Marty Dougherty, Sioux City economic development director, offered similar sentiments and pointed out this not a new issue in the region.
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He noted he doesn’t think the unemployment rate can go much lower — 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.
“It’s a problem you want to have in a way,” Dougherty said. “It shows you that people are employed and working and that’s good for your economy.”
Dougherty thinks the city and its partner entities should take advantage of this situation and market the region’s viability for skilled laborers.
“There are jobs here and people can move here and be successful and find good employment,” he said.
His other big suggestion is more collaboration with local educational institutions to develop a skilled workforce to meet the area' future labor needs through internships
"It's both on the education side and the workforce attraction side," he said. "...But, I also think this is the type of situation that leads to growth."