Price increases, rising interest rates, steady but slowing economic growth, and steady job growth are projected for the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, according to a new economic and employment outlook report from the College of Business Administration (CBA) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).
The report was authored by UNO student authors Brandon Bergfalk, Tyler Billings, Jarold McWilliams, Maxwell Rivers, Bryant Robertson, Christina Wagner, Eric Werther, and Blake Zellmer under the advisement of Christopher Decker, Ph.D., Professor within the economics department at UNO.
The report presents a four-year employment outlook for the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes three Iowa counties (Harrison, Mills, and Pottawattamie) and four Nebraska counties (Douglas, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington).
Data including retail sales, housing permits, airport traffic, and unemployment claims all show the area’s continued recovery from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of note, Eppley Airfield saw a 75 percent increase in passengers in 2021 compared to 2020. Economic increases often correlate with increases in business and personal travel.
According to the authors, employment has rebounded but has not yet reached pre-COVID shutdown levels in the Omaha metro despite historic lows in unemployment both at the city and state levels.
“The COVID-19 pandemic essentially wiped out any gains in employment the area had seen since the previous recession in 2009,” Christopher Decker, Ph.D., professor of economics at UNO and student group advisor, said. “While the addition of 42,000 jobs in 2021 puts the Omaha area closer to pre-COVID shutdown levels, as the student group has collectively concluded, exceeding that mark will come down to labor force participation. This is the most important economic issue Nebraska faced today. Indeed, only in the last couple of months has the participation rate began to trend back in the right direction.”
Despite challenges in labor force participation driven by early retirements and slower overall population growth, the report forecasts the Omaha economy to add jobs steadily and grow nonfarm employment by 1.1 percent over the next four years. This trajectory would bring Omaha on-track to reach pre-COVID levels by late 2023.
Nationwide, the researchers forecast continued expansion in the U.S. economy and growth in gross domestic product, but also rising inflation driven by a together labor market. A tight labor market will likely continue to drive inflation and wages higher.
The full report includes greater detail on the employment and economic outlooks for the Omaha MSA and the U.S. and is available for download.