The number of Iowans who filed unemployment claims last week fell to 180,676, marking the second consecutive weekly decline as more businesses continued to open after being ordered closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

New unemployment data released today by Iowa Workforce Development shows the nearly 9.5% drop in unemployment filings for the week of May 17-23 was the largest decline since Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered businesses and schools closed in mid-March to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

The number of people filing jobless claims was also the lowest since the week of April 20, when 177,000 claims were filed, and down from the peak of 206,668 claims filed the week ending May 9.

There were 14,586 first-time claims filed during the most recent week, according to data provided by the state employment agency. That was up from 13,040 filed the previous week.  

Manufacturing had the highest number of first-time claims filed during the most recent period, at 3,835, followed by self-employed and independent contractors at 2,382. Claims filed by people in health care and social assistance jobs followed at 1,399, with workers in retail and food service filing the fewest first-time claims.

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 10.2% in April, up from 3.7% in March and an increase from 2.7% a year ago. May’s jobless numbers are scheduled to be released June 19.

Reynolds began lifting restrictions earlier this month, allowing stores and other establishments to begin reopening with capacity and social distancing restrictions. Last week, she announced that movie theaters, zoos, wedding reception venues and museums could reopen, with bars and other establishments that serve alcohol being allowed to reopen today as long as restrictions are followed.

The data released today by Iowa Workforce Development also shows:

  • $48.8 million in state unemployment benefits were paid during the week ending May 23. Since mid-March, when the shutdown began, Iowa has paid out more than $392 million in benefits.
  • A total of nearly $104.4 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits was paid during the week of May 17-23. Since April 4, a total of $661,090,200 in benefits has been paid with funds made available through the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package.
  • A total of $5,579,759 was paid in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits to self-employed Iowans during the week of May 10-16.