The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its state unemployment data for the month of April. Nebraska had an unemployment rate of only 4% in the month of March, yet with the full effects of the pandemic in motion during April we saw a 4.3% increase in unemployment for a monthly amount of 8.3%, or 86,300 people. For reference, in March 2019 Nebraska had a 3.1% unemployment rate. It is important to note the state saw a significant jump from the 2.9% unemployment rate it was experiencing in February to the record high 8.3% in April. Never before in the state's history has there been a jump of that magnitude in such a short period of time.
Nebraska experienced the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation, surpassed by Connecticut at 7.9% and Minnesota at 8.1%. Nebraska also has the smallest over-the-month jobless rate increase, only increasing 4.3% from March. The largest jump was in Nevada, with unemployment jumping by 21.3% to an April total of 28.2%, the highest in the nation.
While on a national picture Nebraska seems to be faring well, this is the highest unemployment rate the state has seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting state specific employment data in 1976. The next highest unemployment rate seen in Nebraska on a monthly basis was February 1983 when 6.3% of the state was unemployed; 49,790 people at the time. For reference, the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s recorded history was June 1990 with 2.3% unemployed or 18,972 people. Below is a chart with the highest 10 months and lowest 10 months in the state’s history according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It is important for state lawmakers to realize that never in the state’s history has there been such a jump in unemployment. Historically these events follow a general trend downward, like what happened in the early 1980s. Normally, the business cycle allows state revenues and policy makers to slowly adjust as the economic events are realized.
However, with the pandemic, this altered the economy in a dire way over an extremely short time frame. From the first table you can see that the state took a leap from 2.9% to 8.3% unemployment in just 60 days. Policy makers need to understand that the state’s largest jump in unemployment along with unprecedented other policy changes require unique solutions. The economic spillover from the public health crisis cannot be resolved with the same strategies the state has executed during previous economic downturns.