Nebraska's 2.8% March jobless rate down over past year

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's unemployment rate remained unchanged last month at 2.8%, and it's unclear whether any jobs lost to spring floodwaters will markedly change that figure soon.

The preliminary March rate was a tenth of a point under the year-ago figure of 2.9%, the Nebraska Labor Department said in a news release Friday. It also was well below March's national figure of 3.8%, which is down two-tenths of a point from 4% a year ago. It's the eighth straight month the Nebraska figure's been 2.8%.

Department spokeswoman Grace Johnson said she couldn't comment on whether a rise was expected in the wake of the "bomb cyclone" last month. Early estimates indicate the blizzard in western and central Nebraska and flooding in eastern Nebraska caused nearly $1.4 billion in damage to property, farm operations and infrastructure.

"It would just be speculating at this point, and we don't want to do that," Johnson said. "We basically don't have the data yet that show the impact."

State Labor Commissioner John Albin said in the release that department job centers were helping workers file for benefits under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. He'd announced late last month that workers who became unemployed as a direct result of flooding could qualify for the special aid.

The Disaster Unemployment Assistance program was triggered when President Donald Trump designated portions of the state a disaster area on March 21, Albin said.

The state report said the preliminary nonfarm employment figure last month was more than 1.01 million, down 1,172 over the past year and up 2,396 over March. Private industries with the most growth year over year were financial activities, up 1,449; and education and health services, up 739. The largest month-to-month gains were seen in trade, transportation and utilities, up 1,628; mining and construction, up 609; and education and health, up 553.

The preliminary Omaha-area rate for March rose to 3.3% from 3.2% in February. The year-ago March figure was 3.2%. Lincoln's preliminary rate also rose a tenth of a point. It hit 2.9% last month, compared with 2.8% in February. The figure in March 2018 was 2.7% Grand Island's preliminary rate reached 3.4% in March, a tenth of a point above the 3.3% in February. The year-ago March figure was 3.2%.

The unemployment rates for Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha have not been seasonally adjusted, so they cannot be directly compared with the state unemployment rate.

Here are preliminary area labor market unemployment rates for March, followed by the February rates:

— Beatrice: 3.8, 3.6

— Columbus: 3.1, 3.0

— Fremont: 3.0, 2.9

— Hastings: 3.4, 3.2

— Kearney: 2.5, 2.4

— Lexington: 3.3, 3.2

— Norfolk: 3.1, 3.0

— North Platte: 3.4, 3.3

— Red Willow: 2.9, 2.7

— Scottsbluff: 4.0, 3.9

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