Workforce in Omaha & Council Bluffs:

Underemployment & Unemployment

While unemployment is low in our community, it’s almost 2 times higher for people of color.

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Let's Break It Down

Unemployment rates are as high as 28% in some areas of the metro.

While overall unemployment is low at 5%, eastern Omaha and western Council Bluffs have pockets of much higher unemployment, with some areas reaching as high as 28%, up from 23% in 2014. Looking at unemployment by race reveals large disparities. Unemployment is at 9% for people who are Black, 7% for people who are Hispanic or Latino, and 4% for people who are White. 

Underemployment rates reveal that 49% of those in poverty have at least one job.

Underemployment, while difficult to measure, is also important to consider. People who are underemployed have to take jobs below their skill level, work part time or limited hours, or accept temporary positions in order to provide for themselves and their family when there is a lack of jobs or access to existing jobs. In 2015, 1 in 10 people (8%) worked multiple jobs in Nebraska and Iowa, compared to the national rate of 1 in 20 (5%). Additionally, 49% of people living below the poverty line are working full or part-time. Nationally, 42% of people living in poverty are working. Further exploring underemployment within our community would help us more accurately understand needs related to unemployment.

Why Does It Matter?

Skills gaps, arrest records, and transportation issues may affect a person's ability to find a job with a livable wage.

Providing job opportunities for everyone in our community is critical for overall economic and individual well-being. Unemployment may be related to skills gaps, limited options for a person who was previously incarcerated, a lack of transportation to locations where jobs are available, or a lack of knowledge about employment opportunities.

People who experience unemployment or underemployment may have to make choices about whether they put food on the table, pay rent, or purchase medicine. Having to decide between these essential items can impact physical health, the well-being of children, and the overall stability of the family. A job that provides a livable wage lays the groundwork for a person or a family to thrive in our community.


How Do We Compare?

The metro fared better across all groups, when compared to national unemployment rates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases a national and regional unemployment report on a monthly basis. In September 2017, BLS reported that the national unemployment rate was 3.7%; the most recent unemployment rate in Omaha-Council Bluffs was 2.8%.

While the monthly BLS jobs report is an important indicator of the current job market and a good gauge of how our economy is faring at a given point in time, it does not allow us to look at unemployment by race/ethnicity, gender, or census tract. It also only includes individuals who are looking for work, yet we know there are people who give up looking for employment entirely. To see a fuller, more concentrated picture of what is happening throughout our community, we turn to American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2010-2014.

Between 2010 and 2014, unemployment in the U.S. rose from 8% to 9%, higher than our local 6% unemployment rate, according to the ACS.

Breaking down the national unemployment rate from 2014 shows that people who are Black had the highest unemployment at 16%, while Hispanics and Latinos unemployment rates were 11%. Whites had the lowest rate at 8%.

Locally, unemployment for people who are Black decreased between 2010 and 2014, which was better than the national trend. Within this period, the unemployment rates for people who are White and Hispanics and Latinos increased, but were still lower than the national trend.


Data Source:   2012-2016 5 Year Estimates, Table S2301, B17004, US Bureau of Labor Statistics Multiple Job Holder Report.


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