The unemployment rate in Iowa increased slightly in December, going from 2.6% to 2.7%, according to Iowa Workforce Development. The number of unemployed went from 46,200 in November to 47,200 in December. The number of employed people increased from 1,711,700 in November to 1,716,100 in December. Looked at another way, the number of unemployed people went up by 1,000, while the number of employed people went up by 4,400.
So, how can this be? This can occur because the unemployment rate is a technical term that only includes the people who are not working, and who are looking for work. Able bodied people of working age, who are not working, are not counted as unemployed if they are not looking for work. The good news is that 4,400 people who were sitting on the sidelines, content to be non-working people even though they were capable of working, are now working, and 1,000 more of them are looking for work.
I have written before about the labor force participation rate. That is the number of people working or looking for work as a percentage of the population. Nationally that number is 63.2%, in December 2019. In Iowa we are doing better. We are at 71%. There are several categories of people who are not working, including those with a disability, students and stay at home moms. However, there are some who are not in those categories who just choose not to work. With our tight employment situation in Iowa, we must get all the people we can into the workforce.
I am continuing to work on a plan to use the principles of Direct Primary Care for Medicaid participants. Direct Primary Care is a plan where people are able to pay a modest monthly fee to contract directly with a doctor or clinic for the more common health care needs. The reason money can be saved is that this plan greatly reduces the paperwork normally required of healthcare providers. Insurance is still required for more serious medical problems. I believe we could save significant taxpayer money if we could come up with a way to use this kind of plan for Medicaid participants. Applying this plan to Medicaid participants is more complicated than plans for private participants. I and legislators who are leaders in the Human Resources Committees in the legislature have met with key Department of Human Services leaders and others with experience in the Direct Primary Care area to discuss this idea. We have a long way to go before we can set up a pilot program to try out the concept for Medicaid participants, however.
Those who attended President Trump’s rally at Drake University or who watched on TV, saw him commend Iowans, for passing the bill to prohibit local governments from providing sanctuary for people who are set to be released from jail, who are illegal immigrants. The issue arises when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) asks the local sheriff to turn the prisoner over to them rather than release that person. Our law requires the sheriff to comply. You may recall that I was the Senator who wrote that bill and guided it through the legislature. It was nice to have the President recognize our efforts.