Jul 2, 2021 - Business

Iowa's workforce and the post-pandemic attitude shift

Data: New York Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

The lowest wage that workers without college degrees are willing to accept for a new job is $61,483, according to a New York Fed labor market survey.

  • That's a 26% spike, or a nearly $13K increase, in just one year.

Why it matters: The survey reflects a post-pandemic shift in workers' attitudes about what they're willing to do and the kind of pay they'll accept, Iowa State University economist David Swenson told Axios this week.

  • It means the cost of doing business is going up, especially for industries that have traditionally relied on low-wage earners, Swenson said.

The big picture: Workers have been losing power for decades but now the tables are turning, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.

  • Nationally, the number of unfilled jobs continues to grow and the size of the workforce is stagnating.

Zoom in: Iowa shed about 73,500 jobs while more than 94,000 workers dropped out of the labor market since the start of the pandemic, according to data reviewed by the nonpartisan policy and research group Common Good Iowa.

  • Iowa's restaurant and construction industries are among those facing worker crunches. Meanwhile, local governments, including DSM, have had trouble finding seasonal workers to keep things like pools operating.

What they're saying: A leader of the Iowa Business Council said earlier this year that Iowa's lack of workers is "bordering on a crisis."

  • Both Common Good and Swenson said there isn't a worker shortage, but rather a shortage of jobs that pay livable wages.

Of note: Iowa's minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour.

  • The living wage for an Iowan with no children is $13.62, according to a calculation by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Between the lines: Gov. Kim Reynolds last month ended the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment pandemic benefits that would've otherwise expired on Sept. 6.

  • It's still too early to tell if the move is helping increase Iowa's labor participation as Reynolds intended.

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