Nebraska closed 2020 with lowest unemployment rate, but workforce challenges remain

Nebraska closed 2020 with lowest unemployment rate, but workforce challenges remain

In December, Nebraska’s state unemployment rate remained the country’s lowest at a preliminary rate of 3%, matching neighboring South Dakota for the top spot, according to figures released by the Nebraska Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Non-farm employment increased by 5,394 for the month, which the Labor Department called “the largest December increase ever.”

Still, while the majority of Nebraskans who experienced unemployment in the pandemic have now returned to work, or are no longer receiving unemployment benefits, fewer people are back in the workforce than a year ago.

There are slightly more than a million people in Nebraska’s non-farm workforce, and the BLS says 24,100 fewer Nebraskans are employed when compared with December 2019, a drop of 2.3%. This change is on the lower side among all states, however, with 12 states seeing higher unemployment in December 2020, including some of Nebraska’s neighbors.

Regionally, Colorado’s December unemployment rate increased significantly to 8.4%, which has been attributed to tougher restrictions on restaurants and bars in the state. The state may be fending off a wave of unemployment insurance fraud, with criminals using identity theft to claim unemployment benefits. Iowa and Kansas’ jobless rates declined to 3.1% and 3.8% respectively, Missouri saw unemployment increase to 5.8%, while Wyoming experienced a slight decrease, to 4.8%.

Here’s how the December 2020 workforce size of each state compares to December 2019.

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