Nebraska economy fares better than most states in pandemic

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's economy continues to feel the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, but it's clear that the state has ridden out the economic crisis better than most states.

Nebraska has yet to recover roughly one-third of the nearly 100,000 jobs it lost last spring, but the rate of job losses in the state was the sixth-lowest in the country. And Nebraska's unemployment rate is tied for the third-lowest in the country.

“I think overall, if you look at the big picture, Nebraska has weathered this pandemic about as well as we could have,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said to the Omaha World-Herald.

It helps that the state has a diverse economy, and some of its biggest industries such as financial services and insurance were largely able to transition to having employees work from home successfully. Plus, agriculture is naturally socially distanced and food production plants remained open through the pandemic because they are considered essential.

The state also benefitted from federal assistance programs and stimulus payments that were designed to help businesses and individuals. Sales tax data shows that consumer spending was actually up more than 5% last year.

“People have opened up their wallets,” Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said.

Goss said it may have also helped that Nebraska never issued a blanket stay-at-home order last year. Ricketts said he tried to rely more on targeted restrictions and voluntary compliance with rules instead of widespread restrictions that he believed would unnecessarily hurt some businesses.