Nebraska unemployment hits record low again

Nebraska unemployment hits record low again

While the nation sits at a 4.6% unemployment rate, Nebraska’s October unemployment rate again sets a new state and national record for the lowest rate at 1.9%. One year ago, Nebraska’s rate was 3.6%.

It is important to note that the number of people unemployed in the state is far below the number of job openings in the state. According to the state’s NEWorks jobs website, there are 51,270 job openings across the state of Nebraska, while only 19,342 residents are collecting unemployment benefits.  Obviously, there are some Nebraskans that are not filing for unemployment insurance claims that may be available to fill these jobs, but the fact remains we have a very tight labor market with likely more job openings than people to fill them.

The next lowest state unemployment rates can be found in Utah (2.2%), Oklahoma (2.7%), Idaho (2.8%), South Dakota (2.8%), and Vermont (2.8%). Nevada and California remain the states with the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 7.3%.

There are currently 1,004,080 people employed across the Cornhusker State. Compared to one year ago, the state has increased the labor force by more than 30,000 workers.

Metrics July 2021 August 2021 September 2021 October 2021
Unemployment Rate 2.3% 2.2% 2.0% 1.9%
Labor Force 1,021,405 1,021,905 1,022,963 1,023,422
Employment 997,545 999,546 1,002,277 1,004,080
Unemployment 23,860 22,359 20,686 19,342
Labor Force Participation Rate 68.4% 68.4% 68.4% 68.4%

Source: Nebraska Dept. of Labor, current month is preliminary seasonally adjusted, previous months are revised.

Nebraska workers are returning to the job market with the labor force participation rate remaining steady at 68.4%—a positive sign for Nebraska’s economy since this is well above the national average of 61.6% for labor force participation rate. This is an important labor market measure because it represents the amount of labor in the state available to produce goods and services. Continuing to have a high participation rate coupled with a low unemployment rate is a sign of a robust job market.

Nebraska saw total nonfarm labor jobs grow by 5,400 in October compared to the month prior, however, this needs to be looked at in the context of the many industries across the state. Leisure and hospitality increased by 1,900 jobs across the state, the highest posting job increase of the industries reported. Following was education and health services with 1,300 jobs and finance activities with 1,000 jobs. Those industries that lost jobs compared to last month are trade, transportation, and utilities (500 jobs) and information (100) jobs.

When looking at local areas within the state, the unemployment picture remains positive. The Omaha metro area posted an unemployment rate of 1.7% for the month of October. The Lincoln area was 1.3% and the Grand Island area was 1.5%.

While Nebraska’s economy is continuing to recover from the pandemic, it still faces daunting challenges—not only those brought on by COVID, but those that predate the pandemic. It is no secret there is a housing shortage in the state, and with construction jobs not seeing robust growth, it is worrisome whether this problem will correct itself.

Nearly 200 different jobs in Nebraska require a government license, and at a time when Nebraska is in need of highly skilled labor, we need to change the policies that make it harder for job seekers to move to Nebraska to enter a career in our state. By enacting a universal recognition policy, it would allow people with in-demand workforce skills to have a path to licensure and ultimately help supply more workers and entrepreneurs in communities with tight labor markets.

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