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Omaha metro area keeps growing; 1 million population still 5 years away

Omaha metro area keeps growing; 1 million population still 5 years away

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The Omaha metro area grew by nearly 10,000 people in the latest count, even as the pace fell off a bit in the suburbs and edge counties.

New estimates being released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that metro Omaha added 9,981 people between 2017 and 2018, enough for a steady growth rate of just over 1%.

Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Washington Counties all reached all-time highs in their population, according to the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

But Sarpy County also saw its smallest annual increase this decade, the research center said. On the Nebraska side of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, all the counties surrounding Douglas County had smaller growth rates so far this decade compared to a similar period in the previous decade.

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David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research, said the latest figures partly reflect a shift in the economic outlook in the rest of the country.

During the recession, the metro area’s growth fared better than a lot of places with significantly higher unemployment, Drozd said. But now, he said, the Omaha metro area’s low unemployment rate is only a little better than a lot of other places.

As a result, Drozd said, people “just have a lot of options elsewhere.”

The new estimates suggest that the eight-county Omaha metro area reached a population of 942,000. At its rate of growth, the metro area should reach the 1 million mark by 2024 or 2025.

The metro area continues to be a draw for people moving internationally or within the United States, adding a net in-migration of 3,600 people for the year. But Drozd said other demographic trends are starting to show up — a rising number of deaths in the older population and baby boomers and a slower birthrate.

County 2017 2018 Annual increase
Douglas 560,573 566,880 6,307
Sarpy 181,678 184,459 2,781
Cass 25,904 26,159 255
Saunders 21,019 21,303 284
Washington 20,351 20,667 316
Pottawattamie 93,510 93,533 23
Mills 15,053 15,063 10
Harrison 14,129 14,134 5
Source: U.S. Census Bureau estimates

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An analysis by The World-Herald shows the state and local tax burden in Nebraska has indeed shifted more heavily toward property taxes over the last two decades and away from sales and income taxes. The figures also show Nebraska leans more heavily on property taxes than the vast majority of states, particularly when it comes to paying for schools.

Utah for decades led the nation in birth rate, fueled in large part by traditionally large families among those of the Mormon faith. But in 2018 figures recently released by the federal government, South Dakota ranked No. 1 in the lifelong birth rate for women of child-rearing age. North Dakota was second while Nebraska ranked third, with a rate just slightly ahead of Utah’s.

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