Nebraska yearns for more workers as unemployment dips again

Companies Struggle To Fill Low Wage Positions In Tight Job Market
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images via Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN, NEB. (Nebraska Examiner) – Nebraska’s unemployment rate has dropped from a pandemic-era high of more than 8% three years ago to 2%, according to the latest data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The dip contributed to the Husker state’s top national ranking in a new report by WalletHub that considered various unemployment-related metrics over multiple years.

Nebraska’s unemployment rate for April (preliminary and seasonally adjusted) was down a bit from its March rate of 2.1% and is the same as the rate a year ago in April

State labor officials said the 2% ties Nebraska’s historic low. While preliminary rates during a few months last year were reported to be even lower than 2%, a Labor Department spokeswoman said those earlier numbers were officially revised up during an annual benchmarking process.

Nationally today, Nebraska’s rate is the second lowest among states. Only South Dakota was lower, 1.9%.

State Labor Commissioner John Albin noted that the number of Nebraskans in the labor force (either working or looking for work) hit another record.

“The state’s labor force reached a new all-time high for the second straight month,” he said. The 1,061,392 labor force figure includes both employed people, 1,040,229, as well as the 21,163 currently unemployed but active job-seekers.

Economist Ernie Goss, of Omaha’s Creighton University, thinks a part of the labor force rise can be attributed to “labor hoarding” — that is, he said, when employers don’t want to let a worker go for fear they won’t get the worker back.

He said Nebraska’s typical high labor participation rate, juxtaposed with a relatively low supply of workers available to fill new openings, can mean big challenges in growing the state’s economy.

“I would rather have a low than a high unemployment rate,” Goss said. “But there are real issues behind that.”

State Chamber of Commerce leaders, citing as many as 80,000 unfilled jobs across the state, have been focusing on the need to attract and retain more workers.

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