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Biz Bits: Enhanced benefits kept Nebraska incomes at normal level, study finds
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BIZ BITS

Biz Bits: Enhanced benefits kept Nebraska incomes at normal level, study finds

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how extended unemployment benefits may have contributed to the labor shortage in Nebraska, but a recent study from the Federal Reserve shows how those benefits kept personal income levels from plunging across the state.

The study, from the Omaha branch office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, shows that, thanks to the $600-a-week enhanced federal unemployment benefit, “incomes in the state expanded relative to what might have occurred in the absence of the pandemic.”

The study noted that without the income supports, personal income would have fallen in Nebraska in all industry categories between the first and second quarters of 2020, with the leisure and hospitality sector taking the biggest hit, with a decline of more than 10%.

However, thanks to the $600 unemployment supplement, incomes actually increased in all industries, with the leisure and hospitality industry seeing a more than 40% increase.

The income supports were so beneficial for Nebraska that it was one of only five states where personal income was higher in 2020 than what would have been expected without the pandemic. The others were Connecticut, Iowa, South Dakota and West Virginia.

You can see the full study at: bit.ly/3FQzvpI.

Longtime Lincoln buffet closing for good

Pandemic travel troubles

Despite the hospitality and leisure industry taking a huge hit in the first few months of the pandemic, with the Federal Reserve study estimating nearly 30% of the state's jobs in the industry being lost between the first and second quarter of 2020, Nebraska was one of the least-affected states in the country by travel restrictions.

According to a study by online car-shopping site CoPilot, only two states -- North Dakota and Arkansas -- were affected less than Nebraska when it came to travel.

The study looked at the decline in gross domestic product for each state in its accommodation and food services, and arts and entertainment industries, the share those industries have of a state's total GDP and those industries' share of a state's total employment.

Nebraska is the state with the lowest share of its GDP coming from accommodation and food services and is among the lowest for arts and entertainment, which means that even though those industries were hard it in the state, it had a smaller overall effect on the economy.

Predictably, the state most affected by travel restrictions was Hawaii. Nevada, which is the state with the highest percentage of its GDP generated by both accommodation and food services and arts and entertainment, did surprisingly well, as only the 14th most-affected state.

Lincoln restaurant closing, but new concept replacing it

More automation at Walmart

A Walmart spokeswoman in August confirmed to the Journal Star that the retail giant plans to turn part of the garden center at its store at 87th Street and Andermatt Drive into a "mini fulfillment center" with an "automated pickup dispensing system," but those are all the details she would provide.

However, an application to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission that Walmart made last month sheds a lot more light on what's happening at the store.

Walmart plans to demolish about 6,500 square feet of its garden center on the east side of the store, with the space accommodating two automated pickup towers where people can grab their online orders.

Walmart garden center

Walmart is demolishing part of the garden center at its store at 8700 Andermatt Drive to install automated order fulfillment towers.

Each tower will have four different pickup locations, making eight total, where people can pick up orders.

"Orders will be fulfilled inside the store through an automated system that will assemble the orders and then deliver them to one of eight designated locations on the exterior towers," the application says. "Customers will then be able to enter a code to access their orders and load them in their vehicles."

Walmart is spending several million dollars on the system, which is expected to come online sometime next year.

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Listing the lists

Regular readers of this column know I like to end it with a rundown of recent rankings of Lincoln and/or Nebraska in national reports. The latest:

* Best city for young professionals (Insurify)

* Third-most livable state capital (SmartAsset)

* 18th-best place to live (Livability)

Red Lobster closes Lincoln location

Go to Journalstar.com/bizbuzz to read more Biz Buzz posts.

Have a business news tip? Send it to businessnews@journalstar.com.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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