With Black Friday in full swing, a Midwestern economist says the signs are pointing to an “average” holiday season for retailers this year across Nebraska and across the region. Dave Swenson says all predictions point to a “conventional holiday season” ahead as incomes are improving, slightly.
Swenson says it appears urban areas, like Omaha and Lincoln, will have an economic edge over rural areas.
“The farm sector is weaker because of low crop prices and the multiplied-through consequences of that might mean that there are parts of the economy that aren’t doing as well,” Swenson explains. “We know that communities that depend on manufacturing jobs and those types of things aren’t doing quite as well metropolitan areas which are enjoying consistent, both employment, population and income growth.”
One thing that is making an impact across the economy in Nebraska is the drop in gasoline prices, with some areas selling gas below two-dollar a gallon. Swenson says the savings at the pump translates into a pay increase for households.
“Compared to a year ago, it’s significant,” Swenson says. “Now, how much that increase is as a fraction of your household income — it isn’t that much — gas prices have more of a psychological than a significant effect for most families. But it will put more money in our pockets and create more disposable income and greater opportunities for purchases.” He says the savings at the gas pump will be spent on other things. “We can afford to do just a little bit more at the holiday season, but not that much more,” Swenson says.
Predictions call for a milder winter ahead and he notes, warmer temperatures and lower heating fuel costs have also save Nebraskans money on their utility bills.
“Every little piece on energy savings — whether it’s in your utility bill or if it’s gas being pumped into your car — every little savings is a boost to your household income. And it’s one of the few boosts to income we’re getting,” Swenson says. He says that boost helps at a time when wages have stayed relatively flat.
Swenson works as a regional scientist in the department of economics at Iowa State University and as an adjunct assistant professor in community and regional planning.