Nebraska Labor Market Strong, Diversified

Strength of Nebraska’s labor market has been underscored by high levels of engagement in the workforce across all age groups, said a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Nebraska long has been known as a state with low unemployment, the report said.  Older and younger generations are more active in the labor force than in most states, despite a slight decline in overall participation that has been consistent with national trends.

Unemployment remained at near-historic lows in Nebraska through the first several months of 2019, the bank said.  Although the rate of statewide joblessness edged up to 3% in May, high levels of employment throughout the state have continued to highlight the strength of regional labor markets.

In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of individuals employed in Nebraska exceeded 1 million for the first time in March, the report said.




Nebraska has continued to add jobs at a modest pace as businesses face ongoing challenges in filling various types of open positions alongside low unemployment, the report said.  From January through May, employment growth in Nebraska averaged about 0.4%, a rate slower than the nation as a whole, but still positive.

While the slower rate of job growth may indicate less robust economic gains among businesses in the state, it likely is also indicative of an extremely tight labor market with relatively few individuals seeking jobs, the bank said.

Another sign of a strong labor market is a continued increase in wages, the report said.  Wages in Nebraska have continued to increase at a pace similar to that of the nation.

After slowing modestly late in 2018, wage growth appeared to rebound in the early months of 2019, the report said.  Through May, Nebraska’s average hourly earnings increased 2.9% from last year, similar to the national rate of 3.3%.




In addition to employment and the pace of job gains, the composition of the labor force is a significant component to the structure of labor markets and economic activity, the bank said.  A large share of the population that either is employed or actively seeking work, known as the Labor Force Participation Rate, generally is indicative of a strong labor market.

The strength of Nebraska’s labor market is characterized not just by low unemployment, but also very high labor force participation, the report said.  As of May, Nebraska’s LFPR was 69.7%, nearly seven percentage points higher than the nation.

Although labor force participation has declined steadily since the early 2000s, a trend similar to the nation in general, Nebraska’s LFPR has averaged about seven percentage points higher than the nation for most of this century.

Maintaining a high level of engagement across all age groups will be crucial in addressing labor shortages in coming years.




Cash cattle trading was reported in the Plains Wednesday at mostly $109 per cwt on a live basis, steady with the low end of last week’s action, up to $113.50 in western Nebraska, up $2 from the high end of last week’s trading.  On a dressed basis, trading was reported at $180 to $180 per cwt, steady to up $1 from last week.

The USDA choice cutout Wednesday was down $1.22 per cwt at $219.25, while select was off $0.63 at $195.36.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $23.89 from $24.48 with 107 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $133.94 per cwt, unchanged from the previous day.  This compares with Wednesday’s Aug contract settlement of $136.57, down $1.80.