Hidden Heartache in Nebraska’s Unemployment Numbers

Nebraska newspapers recently reported that our state has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.4%.

Certainly, this is a positive sign for Nebraska’s economy – and it’s good that we are not seeing the record breaking unemployment rates of over 10% in Nevada, Oregon, Michigan, and California.

However, in our role as an advocates for low-income Nebraskans, it’s Appleseed’s job to dig deeper into such statistics and shed light on the less positive aspects of numbers like these.  And, with unemployment insurance, there is a bigger story to be told.

So, sorry folks, shield your eyes.

In spite of Nebraska’s comparatively low unemployment rate, there is one glaring aspect of these numbers that must be addressed:  a significant number of part time and low-wage workers do not qualify for unemployment because of Nebraska’s rules about earnings.  In fact, only 32% of unemployed Nebraskans qualify, meaning that a significant portion of out of work Nebraskans don’t show up in the numbers. This is true in spite of the fact that many unqualified workers have paid into the system.

Looking at it this way, we don’t measure up as well, particularly in the Midwest:

National Employment Law Project, 2008

 

This is particularly concerning, because when workers can’t access the temporary assistance that unemployment insurance provides, they have difficulty caring for their families, can’t take the time they need to find quality work, and are at greater risk of slipping deeper into economic heartache.  Nebraska needs to make changes, not only so that these “Hidden Unemployed” can access assistance, but also so that as a state, we are working with a more accurate analysis of the real employment rate in our state and can take steps accordingly.

Fortunately, the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides states like Nebraska with a new opportunity to make alterations to include low-wage and part time workers in the unemployment insurance system, but only if the Governor and the State Legislature take action. To learn more, take a look at our fact sheet “Nebraska Unemployment Insurance Modernization the Recovery Act.”

And keep watching, Nebraska Appleseed will continue to put a spotlight on this issue so that more hardworking Nebraskans can access the unemployment insurance system they have paid into, care for their families, and get back on their feet.

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