FILE - Small town, mom and pop shop, small businesses, Main Street

One year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa's small businesses are poised for a comeback – but finding enough employees to fill positions may be a challenge. 

(The Center Square) – Iowa beat all other states in its drop in unemployment claims for the week beginning July 19, compared with the same week in 2019, WalletHub reported Thursday.

The state’s unemployment claims last week were 30.8% lower than the week of July 22, 2019. Arizona, the second-highest ranked state, had 25.1% lower unemployment claims than the same week of 2019.

Iowa also had the fourth-smallest increase (a decrease of 64.1%) last week in unemployment insurance initial claims compared with the first week of 2020. It ranked third in the nation for most recovery since last week and 18th in the nation for most recovery since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Only South Carolina and Arkansas were ranked higher in most recovery since last week. South Dakota ranked sixth, Kansas ranked ninth, North Dakota ranked 12th, Minnesota ranked 18th and Wisconsin ranked 28th. Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska trailed the rest of Iowa’s neighbors, at 37th, 38th and 40th, respectively.

Iowa’s weekly unemployment claims decreased by 76.4% compared to the same week of 2020, giving the state the 23rd biggest decrease in the nation.

Nationwide, there were 400,000 new unemployment claims nationwide, which is 7% of the 6.1 million claims filed during the peak of the pandemic, the report said. In addition, every state’s unemployment claims last year were less than the same week of 2020.

Expanded unemployment insurance benefits hinder the economy, WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez noted in an emailed statement.

“The fact that 25% to 40% of unemployed workers are still making more while unemployed than they did while working does not bode well for the market, Gonzalez said. “There is less incentive for people to get a job when unemployment pays more money, and as a result many businesses want to hire more people but cannot find workers. Expanded unemployment benefits were necessary during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep families on their feet in the midst of massive layoffs. Now that the country has mostly reopened and there are a lot more job openings, the extra money is detrimental to economic progress.”

The state ranked third in the nation for the biggest decrease in unemployment claims the week of July 5 compared with the start of 2020, and ranked sixth in the nation for the greatest reduction (19.3%) in unemployment claims compared with July 8, 2019, according to WalletHub’s July 15 report.

Blue states continue to rank at 29 on average whereas red states ranked 23 on average, indicating that red states are recovering more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of unemployment claims. Red states and blue states are denoted based on how they voted in the 2020 presidential election, with red indicating Republican-voting and blue indicating Democrat-voting.