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‘Have jobs, need people’ is the message at Nebraska ‘workforce week’ event


‘Have jobs, need people’ is the message at Nebraska ‘workforce week’ event

Mar 14, 2023 | 6:15 pm ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
‘Have jobs, need people’ is the message at Nebraska ‘workforce week’ event
Bryan Slone, president of Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry speaks at "workforce week" event. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — With an unemployment rate of 2.5%, Nebraska remains among the five states with the lowest unemployment rates, according to data released this week from the U.S. Labor Department.

‘Have jobs, need people’ is the message at Nebraska ‘workforce week’ event
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Even though Nebraska reported adding about 5,000 workers in the past year, and about 1,000 in a recent month, the statewide business chamber president says that up to 80,000 jobs remain unfilled.

Basically, anyone who wants to work already is doing so, says the chamber, noting that Nebraska workforce participation has recovered to the high points of 2020.

No matter how you slice it

With that as a backdrop, several business, education and government representatives held a news conference Tuesday marking “workforce week” in Nebraska. Flanked also by several students, most speakers noted an urgency to build programs that can retain young people and recruit outsiders.

‘Have jobs, need people’ is the message at Nebraska ‘workforce week’ event
U.S Rep. Mike Flood, left, with Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

“Here we are in Nebraska with a lot of jobs, many jobs to offer, not enough people to fill those jobs, and a very low unemployment rate,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly. “No matter how you slice those numbers, we all come back to that same situation: Nebraska needs workers.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Flood and University of Nebraska spokesman Heath Mello spoke of the need to inspire Nebraska students to stay by  increasing opportunities, including more affordable higher education.

“We have jobs. We need people,” Flood said during the event in the State Capitol Rotunda. 

Nebraska stands alone

Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he is often asked which type of jobs are short employees. His reply is that the demand is across the board in all occupations.

Slone advocated for  legislative bills that he said could help improve the workforce outlook.

Among those was Legislative Bill 610, which would direct $10 million from the state’s general fund for career and technical education (CTE) programs in Nebraska schools. 

Currently, Nebraska is the only state that does not match federal Perkins CTE funding, said  State Sen. Loren Lippincott of Central City, who introduced the bill.

National low unemployment rates

North Dakota, 2.1%

South Dakota, 2.1%

Utah, 2.4%

Montana, 2.5%

Nebraska, 2.5%

National average, 3.4%

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

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

LB 610 also would allocate $400,000 to seven career education student organizations such as DECA, SkillsUSA and FFA. The funds are to be used for such things as scholarships and travel expenses to conferences and competitions.

Nod to remote working

Kathleen Kauth introduces a bill before a hearing
State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha was invited to speak on behalf of Legislative Bill 416, which would ease the tax burden for people who work for Nebraska companies but don’t live in the state. 

“We want to make it easier for good employees to stay with Nebraska companies even if they relocate,” she said, adding that the pandemic underscored that remote working is preferred by many.

A fiscal analysis showed the bill would reduce state revenues by nearly $6 million a year.

Slone said the chamber is pushing other priorities to address the workforce shortage. Those include boosting college and university enrollment by 10% within five years and advocating for immigration and refugee legal reforms.