May 13, 2024 - News

Des Moines' "true" unemployment rate is 23%

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

Des Moines' "true" unemployment rate last year was 23%, compared with the official rate of under 3%, according to a new study from the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).

Why it matters: The dataset highlights the full spectrum of wage inequality in the U.S., providing a more nuanced look into regional employment.

How it works: LISEP's True Rate of Unemployment measures the proportion of workers looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage, which was "conservatively pegged" at $25,000 annually before taxes, per the study.

  • The study found data trends parallel those from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at a higher level.
  • That's because the BLS rate excludes people who might be earning only a few dollars a week or those who stopped looking for work.

Zoom in: DSM's true unemployment was nearly the same as the overall U.S. rate and one percentage point below the state's in 2023.

  • Iowa City, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo metros had slightly higher rates than the statewide average.

The big picture: Low-paying industries and low educational attainment levels are factors why nearly half of the workforce in places like McAllen, Texas, with one of the highest true unemployment rates, are unable to find living-wage jobs, per the study.

  • Communities that invest in infrastructure, housing and future-oriented industries consistently outperform those that are more reliant on low-wage jobs, LISEP founder Gene Ludwig said in a statement.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more