Since the pandemic started disrupting businesses across Nebraska in mid March, 2,388 people from Lincoln County have filed for unemployment.
That’s 12.3% of the county’s labor force who have been affected, according to a U.S. Department of Labor estimate of the number of workers when the pandemic began.
When compared to the 47 other counties in the state where the Nebraska Department of Labor provided local data, Lincoln County’s percentage of unemployed ranks 13th.
It’s not known how many of those workers were permanently laid off, ot rehired at new jobs or brought back after a temporary furlough.
Gary Person, the president of the North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corporation, said many of the layoffs in Lincoln County were temporary.
“I think we are seeing a resurgence of business coming back,” he said. “I see good signs there. I think we are going to get back to where we were before with a little bit of impact on our total employment force. It’s going to take a few months to get through all of that.”
Other counties in the region and their ranking by percent of the workforce out of 47 counties with data:
• Dawson County, 1,397 claims, 10.4% of the labor force, 23rd in the state.
• Keith County, 454 claims, 9.9% of the labor force, 27th in the state.
• Red Willow County, 505 claims, 8.4% of workers, 37th in the state.
Other officials around the state said they had a mix of hope and worry in the near term for businesses.
Executive Director of the South Central Economic Development District Sharon Hueftle said the economy in her district will get back to normal, but it will take some time.
“You can only hang on and after a while, it’s like ‘How long is it going to take to dig us out of this in the future?'” she said.
The Executive Director of the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, Greg Youell, said he was hopeful for steady improvement in business conditions.
“If we have another bad time and we have to shut things down again, that is going to really impact our economy and take us backward,” he said. “I have no idea what is going to happen, or if we are going to reach a point where there’s kind of immunity to the deal, and it’s going to run its course. I anticipate that things are going to continue to improve.”
Executive Director of the Southeast Nebraska Economic Development District Tom Bliss, centered in Nebraska City, said the pandemic hasn’t impacted the area his district covers as much as people expected.
“Something that is weird is what I’m hearing from everyone is that their sales tax numbers haven’t decreased or impacted that much. What that says to me is that people in those communities are still shopping,” he said. “We’ve created these programs, and they haven’t even used all of the funding yet. Small businesses have somehow persevered without these local dollars.”
Denise Wilkinson, the president and CEO of the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, said there is hope, but some places are on the edge.
“I talked to a few businesses yesterday that said if they had to shut down again they would be done,” she said. “It’s not because of customers, but it’s because they can’t get products in.”
Wilkinson said she thinks the unemployment rate can get back to normal in the near future.
“I think once we get a vaccine, there may be a new normal and a new way to get things, but I think we will get back,” Wilkinson said.
Panhandle Area Development District Executive Director Jeff Kelley said as the pandemic changed society, business have changed with it.
“I think we have gotten used to the new normal. I’m sure some of the businesses that were affected have had to make those adjustments too,” Kelley said. “Maybe some of these employers in the area are seeing a result from this that people can work remotely and it’s not a need to have as many positions as they have recently.”
In the Central Nebraska Economic Development District headquartered in Chambers, Executive Director Judy Peterson said the numbers could have been worse.
“We have been able to weather the storm,” she said. “We haven’t had as much in our region as far as reported cases. Some of the other ones are going to be a lot higher because we don’t have as many cases that are reported.”
Bliss said there is still uncertainty on when or if the unemployment rate can return to normal.
“If you would’ve asked me that in March or April, I would’ve had a different answer for you than I do now,” he said. “I would have tended to go with the ‘Yeah, things are going to bounce back.’ They still may, but now, I can’t answer that question with confidence.