According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provisional estimates, in July 2003 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Nebraska numbered 983,500, with approximately 38,000 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 3.9%, compared to the national average of 6.2% for the same period. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1978, the highest unemployment rate recorded was 7.1% in January 1983. The historical low was 2.1% in June 1990. In 2001, an estimated 4.4% of the labor force was employed in construction; 11.1% in manufacturing; 5.2% in transportation, communications, and public utilities; 19.8% in trade; 7.2% in finance, insurance, and real estate; 24.0% in services; 14.3% in government; and 7.1% in agriculture.
The US Department of Labor reported that in 2002, 63,000 of Nebraska's 793,000 employed wage and salary workers were members of unions. This represented 7.9% of those so employed, up from 7.7% in 2001 and 10.3% in 1998. The national average is 13.2%. In all, 88,000 workers (11.1%) were represented by unions. In addition to union members, this category includes workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract. Nebraska is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.