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Iowa Unemployment Soars at Historic Rate; Governor Culver's Rating Hits Record Low

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New numbers released on Friday by Iowa Workforce Development continue to find the Hawkeye State in the midst of its steepest increase in unemployment in more than 30 years.

Unemployment increased another 0.3 points in August, from 6.5 to 6.8 percent, the highest level in Iowa since July 1986. Of particular concern for Iowa's economy is the rate of increase - jobless claims have risen 61.9 percent during the last 12 months, the largest yearly jump in unemployment in the state dating back to at least January 1976.

(January 1976 is the first month of available data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website).

In fact, Iowa has set records for the yearly increase in the unemployment rate during each of the last four months, with rising 12-month record highs in May (42.5 percent), June (51.2 percent), July (58.5 percent), and August (61.9 percent).

Prior to 2009, the largest previous 12-month jump in jobless claims was 33.3 percent (from September 1979 to September 1980).

The escalating jobs crisis in Iowa is also taking a political toll on first term Democratic Governor, Chet Culver. Culver, who is up for reelection in 2010, has seen his job approval ratings drop 37 percent from December 2008 to August 2009.

Culver was enjoying solid, steady approval ratings last year of 53 percent (August), 56 percent (September), 56 percent (October), 51 percent (November) and 57 percent (December) according to SurveyUSA polling prior to Iowa's first big jump in unemployment from 4.4 to 4.8 percent in January 2009.

The unemployment rate has since risen 2 percentage points in Iowa to 6.8 percent, and Culver's average approval rating has fallen noticeably along the way, from an average rating of 55 percent from August-December 2008 to an average rating of 44 percent from January through August 2009. Culver received a record low job performance rating of 36 percent in late August, according to a SurveyUSA poll of 600 adults statewide.

Changing Iowa Unemployment Rate and Approval Ratings of Governor Chet Culver, August 2008-August 2009

Month
Unemployment
Culver
August 2008
4.2
53
September 2008
4.2
56
October 2008
4.3
56
November 2008
4.3
51
December 2008
4.4
57
January 2009
4.8
50
Feburary 2009
4.9
46
March 2009
5.2
46
April 2009
5.1
42
May 2009
5.7
48
June 2009
6.2
42
July 2009
6.5
44
August 2009
6.8
36
Note: Monthly unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly approval rating data from SurveyUSA. Polls conducted of 600 Iowa adults.

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