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Amid the pandemic, local businesses and their employees have faced numerous hurdles, including economic shutdowns, loss of customers, and the risk of providing essential services during a widespread health crisis.   The data below illustrates Dubuque’s current economic landscape. Once you are finished exploring this page, please leave a comment at the bottom to join the community conversation.

Measuring The Impact


Note on Reading the Data:

The following charts show both the unemployment rate and the change in employment.

When the unemployment rate goes up, it means more people are unemployed.

Conversely, when more people become unemployed, the level of employment will go down.

Unemployment rate.PNG
employment and labor force.PNG

The unemployment rate refers to the percent of people in the labor force who are currently unemployed.

The labor force refers to the pool of people who are either actively employed or actively seeking employment.  A decrease in the labor force means that a certain number of people are not employed and are no longer actively seeking work.  Reasons for this could include retirement or staying home to care for children, for example.


The number of jobs refers to the number of job positions that currently exist in a community.  This includes both jobs that have been filled as well as jobs that are empty.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the workforce landscape of the Greater Dubuque Area as it did across the country. By April, we had lost 10,300 jobs due to mandated closures. Throughout the summer we have recovered most of those jobs, closing the gap to 4,400 by August.  However, the Dubuque MSA's labor force, a count of employed residents and unemployed resident who have searched for work in the past four weeks, has not rebounded, signaling a lag in workers return to the workforce or an increase in workers leaving the workforce as the pandemic drags on.  Since February, our labor force is down by 4,800 residents, a trend that is occurring in metros around the country.

Kristin Dietzel, Vice President of Workforce Solutions, Greater Dubuque Development Corporation

Both of the graphs shown here are calculated as a seven-day moving average, seasonally adjusted, and indexed to January 4 through 31, 2020.

Breakdowns of this data are not available for Dubuque County.  In the next section both the business revenue and open businesses data is broken down for the state of Iowa by income quartiles.

Small Business Revenue
Small Businesses Open

Who Has Been Impacted?


These charts are broken down by quartiles:


Low Income:

Bottom quartile of annual income by person (employment) or by Zip Code (businesses)

Middle Income:

Middle two quartiles of annual income by person (employment) or by Zip Code (businesses)

High Income:

Top quartile of annual income by person (employment) or by Zip Code (businesses)

Business Revenue
Businesses Open
What industries were impacted?
Unemployment vs. Industry.PNG

This graph looks at the number of unemployment claims filed by workers in each industry between the weeks of March 21 and August 8, 2020, and compares it to the number of jobs in each of those industries according to the 2018 American Community Survey.  This will show us which industries had the most unemployment claims filed during the COVID-19 outbreak, compared to the size of that sector.

Estimating Unemployment Across Dubuque

On August 4, 2020, Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at Catalist, and Mark Steitz, principal at TSD Communications and an adjunct professor at Colombia University, released a data set that provided a modeled projection of unemployment as COVID-19 impacted the U.S. economy this summer.  The researchers combined three data sources to project unemployment data for small area estimates, including by census tract.  This has provided an estimate, not reported data, of which areas of Dubuque County suffered the highest levels of unemployment during June, 2020.

Below is a map of Dubuque county showing several different breakdowns of census tracts by demographic, economic, and housing data.  The map can be interacted with and explored, and the filters showing these breakdowns can be changed by pressing the eye symbols to the right of the map.  One of these filters includes the projected unemployment data produced by Mr. Ghitza and Mr. Steitz.  As you explore the interactive map of Dubuque, consider which areas were impacted the hardest in terms of unemployment, and how that compares to the demographic data of our county.

How to Use the Map

  • Click on the triangle on the picture of the map below to begin interacting with the map.

  • You may move around the map by clicking and dragging on the map.

  • Use the + and - buttons to zoom in or out.

  • On the right side of the map are a series of filters showing different pieces of data.  To move between filters, click the picture of an eye next to the filter you want to activate.

    • The eye will be crossed off when it is not active.

    • Only have one filter active at any one time!  Make sure you turn off your previous filter by clicking the eye next to the filter so it is crossed off.

  • You may click on any of the census tracts to see the specific data for that tract and that filter​.

The​ map below has the following filters showing data for each census tract:

  1. Unemployment rate during June, 2020;

  2. Percent of population that is a racial or ethnic minority;

  3. Median age of the population;

  4. Percent of households that are renter occupied;

  5. Percent of households whose monthly household costs are 30% or more of their monthly income.


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All data from the charts comes from the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, Iowa Workforce Development, Opportunity Insight's Economic Tracker, and the American Community Survey, which is produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.


For the data on unemployment claims by industry, it was necessary to match the categories available in the unemployment claims with those from the census data. We have tried to document this matching below:

  • "Transportation and warehousing" became "transportation, warehousing, and utilities"

  • "Professional, scientific, and admin. services" also includes "professional, scientific, and technical services;" "management and waste management services;" and "claims from support and remediation"

  • "Arts, entertainment, recreation, and food" also includes "accommodation and food services"

  • Claims data was not present for "agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting and mining," so it was included in "other services, except public administration"

  • "Other services, except public administration" also includes claims from "management of companies and enterprises"

Opportunity Insights is a nonprofit organization based out of Harvard University.  All data from Opportunity Insights is indexed to January 4 through 31, 2020. For a more detailed description of the data and methodology used, see the Economic Tracker documentation here.


  • The data on unemployment during COVID-19 (June 2020) are estimates produced as part of a August 4, 2020 working paper by Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at Catalist, and Mark Steitz, principal at TSD Communications and an adjunct professor at Colombia University.  The working paper and data are available here. Additional visualizations can be found at the New York Times here. This data is estimated unemployment data, and should not be considered as reported data.

  • The 2018 Census Bureau's American Community Survey provided data on:

    • The percentage of residents who are a racial or ethnic minority,

    • The median age of residents,

    • The percent of households that are renter occupied, and

    • The percent of households where the monthly housing cost is 30% or more of the household's monthly income

Continue Exploring

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened and Dubuque families became faced with the risk of infection and economic hardship, members of the Dubuque community came forward to try to help those in need.

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