“There is work, we need people” is the message at the Labor Week event in Nebraska.

LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nebraska Examiner) — Nebraska, with an unemployment rate of 2.5%, remains in the top five states with the lowest unemployment rate, according to data released this week by the US Department of Labor.

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Although Nebraska reported adding about 5,000 workers last year and about 1,000 last month, the president of the state’s Chamber of Commerce says up to 80,000 jobs remain unfilled.

Essentially, anyone who wants to work is already doing so, the chamber says, noting that Nebraska’s labor force participation has rebounded to 2020 peaks.

No matter how you slice it

Against this background, several representatives of business, education and government held a press conference on Tuesday dedicated to the “workforce week” in Nebraska. Accompanied by a few students, most speakers noted the urgent need to develop programs that can retain young people and recruit outsiders.

US Representative Mike Flood (left) with Gov. Joe Kelly (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

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

US Rep. Mike Flood and University of Nebraska Rep. Heath Mello spoke about the need to inspire Nebraska students to stay by expanding opportunities, including more affordable higher education.

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

Nebraska stands apart

Brian Sloan, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he is often asked what jobs are understaffed. He replies that there is demand in all professions.

Sloan has advocated for bills that he says could help improve workforce prospects.

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

Nebraska is currently the only state that does not match federal funding for Perkins CTE, said State Senator Lauren Lippincott of Central City, who introduced the bill.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday at the Legislative Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.

LB 610 will also provide $400,000 to seven student vocational training organizations such as DECA, SkillsUSA and FFA. The funds should be used for things like scholarships and travel expenses to conferences and competitions.

Give consent to remote work

State Senator Kathleen Caut of Omaha (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Senator Kathleen Caut of Omaha was invited to speak on behalf of Legislative Bill 416, which would ease the tax burden on people who work for Nebraska companies but do not live in the state.

“We want to make it easier for good employees to stay at Nebraska companies, even if they move,” she said, adding that the pandemic has shown that many prefer to work remotely.

Financial analysis showed that the bill would cut nearly $6 million a year in state revenue.

Sloan said the House is putting forward other priorities to address the labor shortage. These include a 10% increase in college and university enrollment over five years and support for immigration and refugee legal reforms.

The Nebraska Examiner is part of Newsroom States, a network of newsrooms supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. For questions, please contact editor Keith Folsom: [email protected] Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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