Nebraska unemployment rate dips below 2%

Nebraska unemployment rate dips below 2%

Nebraska picked up 1,900 non-farm payroll jobs in April according to new monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state jobless rate fell to 1.9%, keeping Nebraska tied with Utah for the lowest jobless rate in the nation. Overall, Nebraska showed gains on both surveys that make up the monthly jobs report, and has furthermore made solid gains in recovering from the pandemic. The key points of each survey unveil Nebraska’s relative labor market strengths and weaknesses compared to other states.

Two surveys make up the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report, and each survey provides valuable labor market information. On the national version of the monthly jobs report, economists tend to focus on the business establishment survey for gains in non-farm payroll jobs, and on the household survey for the national unemployment rate.

The business establishment survey analyzes data provided by businesses about hiring and layoffs, and is used to determine the net creation of payroll jobs each month. The survey also shows job performance by sector. The household survey, on the other hand, is conducted by surveying American households for information about their labor market participation, and is used to determine the size of the national labor force, labor force participation rates, the unemployment rate, and the total number of people working (which is slightly different from total number of payroll jobs).

Nebraska is a mere 4,900 jobs away from recovering to the level of total non-farm payroll jobs it had before the pandemic, according to the business establishment component of the survey. This puts Nebraska slightly ahead of the national average in terms of pandemic jobs recovery. Barring a national recession, Nebraska should finish its full recovery in the next few months based on its monthly jobs gain rate, which was 1,900 jobs in April.

Nebraska’s payroll jobs recovery is slightly ahead of the national average, with 0.5% fewer jobs than it had before the pandemic. The national economy has 0.8% fewer jobs compared to before the pandemic.

Nebraska ranks 19th among states in regaining the number of non-farm payroll jobs it had compared to before the pandemic. The top 14 states have already recovered to their pre-pandemic jobs count, including neighbors South Dakota and Colorado.

Nebraska shows even better on the household survey. First, the household survey shows that Nebraska is tied for the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 1.9%. In addition, the survey shows that Nebraska’s labor force has expanded over the pandemic time period, while the national labor force has contracted. Nebraska’s labor force is now the largest it has ever been.

The labor force is made up of both employed and unemployed workers. Thus, the workforce can grow due to more employment, more unemployment, or more of both. Nebraska’s total employment, which measures the number of people working in the state, has made a strong recovery and is at an all-time high while unemployment is near historic lows.

Gov. Pete Ricketts celebrated Nebraska’s all-time high for employment in a May 20th press release, along with Nebraska having the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Gov. Ricketts also pointed to other uniquely strong metrics about Nebraska’s workforce. The Cornhusker State has the nation’s highest labor force participation and the nation’s highest employment-to-population ratio, and has performed relatively well in preserving these strengths through the pandemic. The U.S. as a whole has struggled to keep its labor force participation strong, with the national labor force participation rate coming back less and less robust after each recession.

Nebraska can further bolster its economy through advancing economic policies to attract more investment and job creation. Several of the most economically competitive states benefit from warm climates or attractive vistas in the Sunbelt or Mountain West. That makes it all the more important for Nebraska to focus on attributes it can control and lead the nation in providing excellent economic opportunities and a high quality of life.

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