Briefly

Gov. Pillen assembles a group to help solve Nebraska’s workforce shortage

By: - August 21, 2023 7:02 pm

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Gov. Jim Pillen has assembled a new group — representing state government, chambers of commerce, education and private businesses — to examine the oft-discussed state workforce shortage.

“We need to solve this problem if we are to continue growing Nebraska,” Pillen said in a statement.

He pointed out the state’s low unemployment rate, saying it creates a “unique challenge for attracting great people to our state.”

Gov. Jim Pillen  (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

A low unemployment rate, the share of workers who are unemployed and actively searching for a job, can be viewed as a positive. But it becomes a barrier when companies want to expand, relocate or open in Nebraska, said economist Ernie Goss of Creighton University.

Creighton’s economic forecasting group regularly interviews local and regional manufacturers and businesses about economic conditions, and Goss said that the shortage of available workers has been a nagging concern.

“It’s always one of the biggest issues for companies: finding and hiring qualified workers,” Goss said.

He said more Nebraskans over the last decade have continued to leave than enter from other states. At least one way to help a workforce shortage, Goss said, is through immigration — but he said that the subject is not fully embraced across the state.

“That is not a message many citizens want to hear,” said Goss.

According to the latest Labor Department data, Nebraska was tied with North Dakota for having the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation, 2.0%.

The average for the nation in July was 3.5% unemployment.

Lowest unemployment rates

New Hampshire, 1.7%

Maryland, 1.8%

Vermont, 1.8%

South Dakota, 1.9%

Nebraska, 2.0%

North Dakota, 2.0%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, preliminary and seasonally adjusted for July

For Nebraska, that unemployment rate, which was seasonally adjusted, represents a slight uptick from the 1.9% in June but a dip from the 2.4% rate a year earlier.

Pillen said in his statement that no industry is immune from a labor shortage.

Among those in the new group is University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, who said he looks forward to identifying solutions and said higher education will be a key player.

Pillen is named as chairman of the working group. Other participants include members of the governor’s policy, research and budget teams and the director of the state’s Department of Economic Development.

State Sens. Kathleen Kauth, Lou Ann Linehan and Tom Briese are in the group, as are representatives of Bryan Health, Buildertrend, Chief Industries, First National Bank of Omaha, Physicians Mutual, ruralMED Health Cooperative, Union Pacific and the Nebraska, Lincoln and Omaha Chambers of Commerce.

Concordia University, Lincoln Public Schools, Metropolitan Community College, Nebraska Community College Association, Nebraska State College System, and the University of Nebraska are among the educational groups participating.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.

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