Economists, business leaders: Nebraska’s 2021 economy stable

December 27, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s economy fared better than in most of the U.S. this year amid inflation, labor shortages, rising wages and supply chain struggles, economists and business leaders say.

The state’s economy in 2021 was stable despite high-profile challenges, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Nebraska had the lowest state unemployment rate in the U.S. in November and one of the nation’s best labor participation rates.

“Nebraska has rebounded and performed quite well despite this heavy, heavy drag on the U.S. economy and Nebraska economy,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss.


State leaders have touted Nebraska’s record-low monthly unemployment rate of 1.8% in November, compared with the U.S. rate of 4.2%. The state’s unemployment rate was 7.4% in April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced employers to slash their workforces.

But a historically low unemployment rate can cause problems in the employment market, said Eric Thompson, an economist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“People need some time to find the right job. Employers need some time to find the right person for the job openings that they have,” Thompson said.

Nebraska has the nation’s third-highest labor participation rate, which measures the percentage of people 16 and older who are employed or actively looking for work. Nebraska recorded a seasonally adjusted labor force participation rate of 68.4% in November.

With a large number of jobs already available and a shortage of employees to fill them, some employers have had to offer higher pay or incentives.

William H. Harvey, a manufacturing facility that makes plumbing chemicals, effectively set its minimum wage at $15 an hour — a dollar more than the company’s previous minimum. Harvey also introduced a $1,000 hiring bonus, and a $2,000 referral bonus for existing employees in an effort to land new workers.

“There are jobs that we can’t run right now because we can’t find raw material, and there are jobs we can’t run because we can’t find people,” said Scott Volk, vice president and chief operating officer of MetalQuest Unlimited in Hebron in southeast Nebraska.