The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a recession early last year that took unemployment levels close to Great Depression levels. Just before the virus hit the United States, the jobless rate was below 4%, one of the lowest rates in half a century. As the American economy snapped back, so did the number of people with jobs. The national unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% in August, as the number of employed people rose by 235,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The jobs recovery has been very uneven. States and cities with industries particularly battered by the pandemic were hit extremely hard. Examples of this are the cities in Hawaii that suffered from tourism-related layoffs. Las Vegas and the entire state of Nevada had similar problems.
According to the latest BLS Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment report, unemployment rates were lower in August than a year earlier in 385 of the 389 metros, higher in three and unchanged in one.
A total of 43 cities had jobless rates below 3%, and four had rates that were 10% or higher. The city with the lowest unemployment rate was Lincoln, Nebraska, at 1.7%. It was followed closely by Grand Island, Nebraska, at 1.9%. The city with the highest unemployment was El Centro, California, at 19.4%.
According to the Census Bureau, Lincoln had a population of 289,102 in 2019. That was up by 11.7% from 2000. Almost 80% of the population was white then. Slightly less than 5% were Asian and Black. By most measures, the city is not affluent. Its median household income of $57,746 is well below the national number. However, the city has a stable employment base. The largest employer is the state, which supports over 8,700 jobs. The public school system supports close to that number. The other large employers are government and medical institutions.
Nebraska has had a low jobless rate for years, compared to the national number. There is no reason that should change.
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