Lincoln's unemployment rate in September fell to 3.5 percent, and while companies continue to add jobs locally, one factor that's helping to keep the rate low is that few companies are laying off workers.
With just more than two months to go in the year, 2011 is shaping up to be the year with the fewest local layoffs in at least a decade.
The number of local layoffs reported to the Nebraska Department of Labor is down by one-third this year from last, and the number of people laid off is down even more.
As of Friday, the largest publicly reported permanent layoff in Lincoln this year was 25 people who lost their jobs at Lincoln Benefit Life in February. And the total number of reported layoffs stands at fewer than 150 people.
According to the Nebraska Department of Labor, 45 people will lose their jobs later this year when Barry's closes its doors after the Husker football season, which would be the biggest single layoff of the year.
People are also reading…
If that holds up, this will be the first year in at least a decade that there hasn't been what the government considers a "mass" layoff -- a onetime layoff of 50 people or more.
"It's kind of surprising," said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Normally even in a good economy, you'll get an announcement like that."
Last year there were three mass layoffs locally. In 2009, there were six.
In fact, Labor Department data and Journal Star archives show that there has been at least one mass layoff every year since at least the turn of the century.
But so far, not this year.
Wendy Birdsall, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said the statistic doesn't surprise her at all.
Birdsall said that last year, as part of the Chamber's annual business survey, it talked to 77 local businesses of varying sizes. Of the 77, 19 companies reported expanding a total of 27 times over the past three years.
The group as a whole reported plans to invest $71 million and create more than 1,000 jobs, Birdsall said.
Of the 77, only two said their market share had decreased, and not a single one mentioned the potential for layoffs, she said.
"I'm excited about that," Birdsall said. "But it does present challenges."
She said those challenges deal with whether companies can find enough qualified candidates for their job openings.
In addition to having among the lowest unemployment rates in the country, Lincoln and Nebraska also have some of the lowest rates of underemployment as well, according to federal data.
Though the rest of the state hasn't totally escaped mass layoffs this year, the number is down considerably from last year. So far this year there have been 12. During the same period last year there were 18.
Smaller layoffs are down as well. There have been 32 layoffs total this year reported to the labor department, less than half as many as had been reported at this time last year.
Unemployment claims also have been cut in half. The state labor department reported a nearly 51 percent drop in continuing claims in September compared with September 2010.
State Labor Commissioner Catherine Lang said she has definitely noticed a drop in activity related to layoffs. Initial claims for unemployment have been dropping for some time, she said, and the department has started updating its layoff report quarterly instead of monthly because of a lack of items to report.
Thompson said those numbers are largely due to strength in the economy both in Lincoln and statewide.
"Lincoln, and Nebraska in general, are clearly in recovery," he said.
Reach Matt Olberding at 402-473-2647 or email@example.com