The Midlands are back to the overall employment numbers from before the Great Recession — after five years, Nebraska and Iowa have regained the more than 33,000 jobs lost during the downturn.
Hopefully, the forward momentum will continue.
As staff writer Barbara Soderlin explained in an article in The World-Herald’s series called “Crash +5,” the Midlands’ economic rebound stems primarily from “a strong agriculture economy, expansion of government jobs and a large and booming health care sector that barely tapped the brakes during the recession.”
As a result, Soderlin noted, Nebraska and Iowa are now among the 14 states with employment at or above pre-recession levels.
A report this summer from the Nebraska Business Forecast Council (made up of 10 Nebraska-based economists) looked at the state’s economy. We’ll highlight some key factors:
The housing recovery, begun in 2012, has boosted the construction sector, and the number of building permits and housing starts “should continue climbing over the next two years,” the council reported.
The services sector accounts for 39 percent of the state’s employment and “will continue broad growth through 2015,” the council projects. During 2012, services accounted for an estimated 57 percent of net job growth in Nebraska.
Of particular importance is the health care sector, projected to add between 7,600 to 9,300 jobs annually through 2015.
Although the farm economy in Nebraska climbed in 2011 to a record-high income level of $7.5 billion, there has subsequently been a downward trend as crop prices moderated, the drought delivered blows to the crop and livestock sectors, and cattle producers struggled with higher input costs.
Farm income in Nebraska should be around $4.5 billion this year and around $4.2 billion in 2014, according to the council’s analysis. That general level, the council says, will likely be the “new normal.”
Keeping the economy moving forward will rest, above all, on private-sector vision and execution. On the government side, Nebraska leaders should make sure that the upcoming revamp in state tax policy is a help rather than a hindrance for the economy.
With overall employment in the Midlands back to the pre-recession level and climbing, now’s the time to renew the efforts to lift our economy to the next level.