Dubuque area sees second straight month of strong job growth

For the second month in a row, the Dubuque metropolitan area has seen the highest percentage job growth in the state.

In the month of May, the number of people working in the Dubuque metropolitan area increased by 1,100, or 1.9%, the greatest percentage increase out of the nine largest metropolitan areas in Iowa, according to statistics from Iowa Workforce Development. A similar increase occurred in April, of 1.6%, with 900 jobs.

“Dubuque is performing better in job growth by a significant amount compared to our other metropolitan areas in Iowa,” said Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. “It wasn’t just slightly above our other metros. It was significantly stronger.”

Of the top nine metropolitan areas in Iowa, Dubuque was one of only two in May to see job growth above 1%.

Dickinson attributed the growth in jobs to proficient job opening advertisement, workforce creation initiatives and easier access to workforce training.

“The accumulation of all those things is what drives the job growth in Dubuque right now,” Dickinson said. “We’re doing a better job of removing the barriers that are stopping people from getting back to work.”

While 59,800 people might now be working in the Dubuque metropolitan area, it still lags behind pre-COVID-19 numbers. Compared to the total number of people working in May 2019, Dubuque is still down 1,900 jobs.

Additionally, Dubuque unemployment saw a minimal decrease from April to May, going from 4.1% to 4%, with a total of 2,200 people still unemployed. The local unemployment rate still remains higher than a number of metropolitan areas in the state.

Dickinson stressed that the city has plenty of job growth to make up, adding that many people who left the workforce when the COVID-19 pandemic began still have not returned.

“That is the challenge of hiring back folks in the post-pandemic,” Dickinson said. “We have folks who decided to retire early or we have people who chose to stay home with the kids.”

Dickinson said businesses, community organizations and city government will need to continue to work on addressing economic hurdles preventing many residents from re-entering the workforce, including low wages and the high cost of child care.

“We need to have a more robust approach in addressing these issues,” Dickinson said. “That is what will bring people back to work.”

Dubuque City Manager Mike Van Milligen said the efforts of the city’s local businesses have been the driving force in bringing back job growth to Dubuque.

“We’re fortunate that our employers are making a tremendous amount of investment in our employees,” Van Milligen said. “We are seeing tremendous job growth, and we have our employers to thank for that.”