Nebraska has low unemployment again, but for how long?
The Nebraska Department of Labor reports that the state’s October 2020 unemployment rate declined to 3%, which ranks as the country’s lowest for the third consecutive month.
Nebraska’s unemployment rate fell 0.6% from September to October, with non-farm employment increasing by 8,912. Nebraska has not seen an unemployment rate this low since before the pandemic began. However, there were about 26,000 fewer people in Nebraska’s non-farm labor force than at the same time last year.
The national unemployment rate declined one percentage point in October to 6.9%. Jobless rates also fell in most of Nebraska’s neighboring states, although Colorado’s rate remained unchanged from the previous month.
For the moment, these rates put states like Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota in economic territory that was more familiar pre-pandemic, but what is certainly not familiar are the high rates of COVID-19 each of these states are also experiencing at the same time.
These unemployment figures, being from a month ago, can’t fully capture what may be happening right now and in the weeks ahead.
The New York Times reports that Nebraska and each of its neighbors are within the top fifteen states for new COVID-19 cases, per capita, in the past seven days.
This matters because as Nebraska’s Directed Health Measures become more restrictive to slow the fall and wintertime spread of COVID-19, the jobs picture in the state and region could potentially worsen once again.
Throughout the pandemic, states have faced the question of how much is an acceptable level of economic disruption to combat the disease. Most Nebraskans would probably not want to trade bank accounts with workers in Hawaii and Nevada, which still have double-digit unemployment, at 14.3% and 12%, respectively.
But it is also the case at this moment that there are states doing a relatively better job preventing the spread of COVID-19, and that have comparable unemployment rates to Nebraska. This includes the neighboring New England states of Vermont (3.2%) and New Hampshire (4.2%).