A survey of business managers in Nebraska and eight other states shows the economic picture improving, gradually, in both the Husker State and the Midwest region.
Creighton University Economics Professor Ernie Goss says while the situation is getting better, the advances are very slow.
“The overall index for the month was up again, for the second consecutive month, but it’s up at 50.6 from 50.5,” Goss says. “We’re just ever so slightly above 50. It wasn’t a good report but it was better than the previous months.” The scale goes from 0 to 100 with a score of 50 being growth neutral.
Since the beginning of the recovery in 2009, Goss says Nebraska’s manufacturing sector has added more than 4,000 jobs while output-per-worker has expanded by about 16%, the second highest among the nine states.
Creighton’s recent surveys point to an expansion in manufacturing output for Nebraska, but with manufacturing job losses for the next three to six months.
“All in all, it was a pretty good report but the jobs index, unfortunately, was not good,” Goss says. “We’re still shedding jobs in manufacturing, particularly anything to do with energy, as you well know that.”
That energy sector includes ethanol production, an industry where Nebraska is the nation’s number-two producer, behind only Iowa. Due to the prolonged low gasoline prices, managers of some ethanol plants are trimming back on production and personnel. Nebraska has 24 ethanol plants that produce a total of more than two-billion gallons each year.
As colleges across the region will soon be sending a new crop of graduates into the working world, Goss says one part of the survey focused specifically on pay for recent grads.
“We asked about salaries for a new worker with a bachelor’s degree and it came in at $47,800,” Goss says. “That may not sound like a lot for a person fresh out of college but it’s up 5% from this time last year when we asked the same question.”
In the past year, the region’s manufacturing sector has lost nearly 2%, or roughly 23,000 manufacturing jobs. Goss projects the broader economy to continue to add jobs but at a slow pace.