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It’s essential for a community to have opportunities for meaningful employment that ensure all people can provide for themselves and their families. Employment that provides livable wages helps a family to have safe housing, transportation, access to health care, and good quality of life. A robust workforce creates a stronger economy, leading to development and growth within our entire community.
While unemployment is low in our community, it’s almost two times higher for people of color. Looking at unemployment by race reveals large disparities. We also see large numbers of people who are working multiple jobs or underemployed, meaning they are working full-time but still living under the poverty line.
Our community fares better when compared to national unemployment rates. Locally, unemployment for residents across all races/ethnicities has declined in recent years.
People of color have a median income that is $13,000 less per year than those who are white. This difference has grown by 18% since 2015. A 2018 Regional Equity Profile completed by Heartland 2050 found that even when education levels are equal, people of color earn less than white residents.
Black workers in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area earn less than Black workers nationally. While the earnings of white workers are still significantly higher than those of people of color, our community is slowly closing the racial wage gap. In 2015, Black workers were earning 11% less than the national average. As of 2019, they are earning between 5%-6% less than the national average.
Gender Pay Gap
Women earn almost $11,000 less per year than men in our community. While overall income levels rise with education, men earn a median income higher than women across all occupational areas regardless of education.
The gender pay gap in Omaha-Council Bluffs is slightly higher than national rates. Nationally, women earn 22% less than men. Locally, they earn 24% less. The pay gap between men and women has increased since 2016.
The local workforce has unfilled positions, but a significant number of potential workers don’t have access to those jobs. While COVID-19 will impact the job market for years to come, the persistence of job vacancies during times of higher unemployment may indicate a mismatch between the skills required to do a job and the skills available among the pool of workers.
Our region is projected to have slower growth in high-skilled jobs compared to the country overall. Nationally, the majority of fastest-growing occupations are projected to require an associate’s degree or higher. However, the opposite is projected locally. More local data is needed to understand how we compare with other communities.
U.S. Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 5 Year Estimates, Table S2301, B17004, US Bureau of Labor Statistics Multiple Job Holder Report.
U.S. Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 and 2015-2019 5-Year Estimates, Tables B20017, B20017A, B20017B, B20017I (geographic area includes the Omaha-Council Bluffs MSA, which includes Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Washington, Saunders, Pottawattamie, Mills & Harrison Counties).
American Community Survey 2014-2018 5 Year Estimates Tables S2411, B23008, American Community Survey 1-Year 2019 table S0201, American Community Survey 1-Year 2018 tables C17010A, C17010B, C17010I, etc. (accounting for households in poverty by race).
Nebraska Department of Labor (NE Works), National Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, US Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 5-year Estimates Table S1501.