College towns more "recession-proof" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

College towns more "recession-proof"

KWWL (Dubuque)  -- The word recession-proof has been thrown around a lot lately, but one sector of the economy is proving that it can hold strong even during a tough market. The Wall Street Journal reports that only six metropolitan areas have unemployment below 4%; half are college towns.

Morgantown, West Virginia, location of West Virginia University, Logan, Utah (Utah State University), and Ames, Iowa. The home of Iowa State University is boasting a 3.8% unemployment. In contrast, the national unemployment rate is at 8.5%.

Dubuque County's unemployment rate in January was 6.6%, nearly 2% higher than January of last year. The rate held steady last month at 6.5%. Local College officials say those relatively low and steady numbers can be attributed in part to being a 'college town'.

Loras College officals say college towns are holding their own because of a relationship between business and education often starting in school with internships.

"That provides not only workforce possibilities for local corporations and not-for-profits, but it also provides them a very able workforce at a relatively low cost. It gives students the opportunities to make a connection with the local workforce that has implications beyond," Loras College President Jim Collins said.

Industries in college towns often choose the location because of the highly educated workforce available, IBM in Dubuque is one example.

"If a community has a disproportionate or a larger share of slow-growing industries, they're going to have a higher unemployment rate than a community that has a disproportionate or larger share of rapidly-going industries," Dr. Laddie Sula said.

Those up-and-coming industries, like in technology and engineering fields, often hire local grads.

"The number of offerings, ranging from IBM to John Deere to the local hospitals and so on provide a plethora of opportunities for students both during their time here, and potentially after graduation," Collins said.

Another factor that keeps unemployment low, college grads are more likely to follow the job openings.

"If they do find themselves unemployed, they're going to go back to school, or they're going to go. They're better informed typically, and they're more willing to be mobile, so they'll go somewhere else in the country where the opportunities exist," Sula said.

In February, Johnson County, the home of U of I, showed a 3.6% unemployment rate, the lowest in the state.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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