Nebraska Department of Labor NDN

Labor shortages in the fields of health care, education and agriculture will be most affected in the coming years in the O’Neill and Valentine areas, according to a study released recently by the Nebraska Department of Labor.

The study — made up of three reports — is based on business and household surveys and are part of a joint research project involving the Nebraska Departments of Labor and Economic Development and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research and Bureau of Sociological Research.

The study was a questionnaire-based research project aimed at helping workers and businesses make more informed decisions about workforce and the job market in local areas.

Eric Thompson, director of the UNL Bureau of Business Research, said the findings of a skills gap report show the number of job openings in the next decade will exceed the number of available new workers. The largest gap would be teachers, health care practitioners and farm workers, and blue collar and service occupations would experience a significant gap, as well.

O’Neill’s study on labor availability included Holt County, as well as all or parts of 11 other counties in the Niobrara region of the state. The survey — conducted in the fall of 2018 — revealed there were 8,567 potential job seekers, age 18 and older, in the survey area. Nearly 2,000 were actively searching for work. About 32 percent possessed a bachelor’s degree; the majority of those job seekers were employed at the time of the survey.

Potential job seekers indicated salary, health insurance and retirement benefits as the most important factors in improving their employment situation. Potential job seekers indicated lack of job opportunities in the area, inadequate pay offered at area employers and inadequate benefits offered by area employers as the most common obstacles to improving their employment situation.

The median minimum pay that active job seekers required to improve their employment situation was $16 for hourly employees and $57,000 a year for salaried employees. Nearly 75 percent of the active job seekers already were employed, and the median job tenure of active seekers was four years and four months.

Similar results were found from a survey in the Sandhills area. The Valentine Labor Availability Report included Cherry County and all or parts of nine other counties in Nebraska and parts of South Dakota.

The Valentine survey — also conducted in the fall of 2018 — revealed an estimated 6,328 potential job seekers, age 18 and older. The majority already were employed, as well.

An estimated 1,250 active job seekers were seeking employment in the area at the time of the study. The median minimum pay that active job seekers required to improve their employment situation was $15 for hourly employees and $47,500 a year for salaried employees.

More than 37 percent of active seekers held a bachelor’s degree, and active job seekers’ most important factors when choosing a new job were health insurance, opportunity for advancement, and salary.

Well over half of businesses in both surveys said labor availability issues would pose a problem with any plans for major expansions.

Thompson said state and local entities should continue programs to interest young people in careers in agriculture and to attract health care providers and teachers to the region.

“The local labor market also would benefit from enhanced training, education, internship and apprenticeship opportunities developed through collaboration between employers, training entities and other education institutions,” he said.

In other news

O’NEILL — The North Central District Health Department issued a press release Friday notifying the public that the COVID-19 California variant (B.1.429) had been identified in the district.