How good is the jobs situation in Nebraska right now?
Thirty-nine states had year-over-year increases in jobs in May, and only two, North Dakota and Texas, created more jobs on a percentage basis than Nebraska.
The state had nearly 15,700 more jobs in May than it did in May 2010. Iowa, which has a population about two-thirds bigger than Nebraska's, created only 12,400 jobs during the same period.
The Lincoln Metropolitan Statistical Area had 3,200 more jobs in May than in May 2010, its largest year-over-year increase for one month in more than three years, and the 175,640 people employed in the Lincoln metro area in May was the most for a month since December 2008.
On the unemployment side, nearly 5,200 fewer people were unemployed in May in Nebraska than a year ago, and the number of unemployment claims is half of what it was at this time last year.
All of that has added up to unemployment rates that continue to fall both statewide and locally.
Nebraska's unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in May, down from 4.2 percent in April and 4.7 percent in May 2010. The rate in the Lincoln metro area, which includes Lancaster and Seward counties, fell to 3.7 percent, down from 3.9 percent in April and 4 percent in May 2010.
State Labor Commissioner Catherine Lang said May was the third straight month that Nebraska had job growth that was higher than the nation as a whole.
"This is a strong indication that the labor market is improving within the state," Lang said.
That improvement is due in large part to the same conditions that have kept Nebraska relatively free of economic turmoil since the national economy started to implode at the end of 2007.
Eric Thompson, head of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said it's still the same old answers:
* Nebraska is dependent on agriculture, which continues to do better than the rest of the economy.
* The downturn in housing has been more modest in Nebraska than elsewhere.
* Nebraska has a highly educated workforce, especially in Lincoln and Omaha, which makes it easier for people to find new jobs.
"I know that's boring," Thompson said, "but it's still the reason I think that we're doing better than the rest of the country."
The situation is especially good in Lincoln.
Until April, Lincoln had the lowest unemployment rate in the country among metropolitan areas, and it currently sits third.
Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall said she's seeing growth almost universally across industries in the city.
"I can tell you that when we go out to visit with people, the overwhelming majority of them are adding jobs," Birdsall said.
Even manufacturing, which was one of the industries hit hardest by the recession, now is bouncing back.
According to the state Labor Department, there were 415 more manufacturing jobs in the Lincoln metro area in May than there were a year ago, and the total number of manufacturing jobs in the area is at its highest level since June 2009.
"Manufacturing has been very strong," Birdsall said.
However, it's not among the top growth industries for Lincoln over the past year.
According to the Labor Department, those are the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added more than 1,650 jobs, and the professional and business services sector, which added more than 1,200.
Another industry doing well is health care, Birdsall said.
Thompson said he expects the state's robust growth to continue, although he said other states will likely catch up once they work through their economic issues, especially housing.
"I don't think our faster rate of growth will continue indefinitely," he said.