Nebraska No. 1 in labor force participation rate, No. 2 in low unemployment rate

By: - April 25, 2023 6:34 pm
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 OMAHA — Nebraska’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 2.1%, according to the latest Labor Department data, and is tied with North Dakota for being the second lowest in the country.

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The Husker state also stands out on another economic indicator: Nebraska’s labor force participation rate reported for March was the highest in the nation, at 69.5%.

While a relatively high rate of working-age people in the labor force is not new to the state, economist Eric Thompson said the two indicators reinforce the tough task of filling job openings. 

“It does suggest the challenging environment for finding workers,” said Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The data points are part of the monthly update by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thompson said Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and North and South Dakota typically are near the top of the pack when it comes to the share of people participating in the labor force. He called it an upper Midwest phenomenon that has prompted debate about the reasons why.

One contributing factor, Thompson said, is that Nebraskans work late into their lives. Maybe it’s cultural, he said. Or maybe there’s a bit less temptation to forego work when there are no beaches or mountains nearby.

“There’s a lot of back and forth on that issue,” he said.

According to the latest Labor Department monthly update, North Dakota followed Nebraska in labor participation rate, at 69.3%. Iowa reported 68.2% and Minnesota, 68%.

For unemployment rates, also seasonally adjusted, South Dakota had the national low, 1.9%. Nevada had the highest, 5.5%. The national rate was 3.5%.

In Nebraska, the 2.1% unemployment rate for March compared to February’s 2.3%.

“March saw an increase in employed workers of nearly 3,000,” said State Labor Commissioner John Albin.

Unemployment rate counts are based on an employment status survey conducted by the Census Bureau. Individuals who are claiming unemployment benefits as well as individuals who are not claiming benefits can be counted as unemployed, depending on how they respond to the survey.

Those who are not working and not seeking work are not considered part of the labor force and are not included in the unemployment rate calculation.

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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.