(The Center Square) – When it comes to technology and other high-paying professional service jobs such as engineers and accountants, Nebraska has fallen behind other states, according to a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
These jobs represent only 4.4% of Nebraska's job market compared to 6.24% nationally, the study said.
One factor could be that agriculture is such a large industry for the state, Eric Thompson, professor of economics at the university and director of its Bureau of Business Research, told The Center Square.
“But when we compare the metropolitan areas of Nebraska with their peers, similarly sized metro areas, we still find that Nebraska metros are a little below the average," Thompson said.
The state “doesn’t seem to be capitalizing on what could be a trove of high-paying jobs,” Thompson said.
Nebraska has a solid education system and a strong business community, he added.
“We’re not a low-tax state but we tend to be a state with lighter regulation,” Thompson said.
One reason for the gap in professional service jobs could be that those positions tend to cluster around larger cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. However, other Midwestern states such as Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Iowa have managed to do a better job of attracting these types jobs than Nebraska, he said.
As it tries to increase the number of technology jobs, Nebraska might want to focus on its core industry of agriculture, Thompson said.
“Could we be a center of high-tech industry related to agriculture? We are a center for insurance related to agriculture," he said. "Could we be a center for legal expertise related to agriculture or account jobs related to agriculture? That would be one way to do it.”
Quality of life issues are also important in attracting professional service jobs, Thompson added.
Creating paths for walking and biking, enhancing the arts and encouraging entrepreneurs to open bars and restaurants could help to attract professional service jobs, said Thompson.
Lowering taxes could also help.
“We do pretty well with regulations but we are not a low-tax state,” Thompson said. “One way you could help is by trying to lower the tax rates and the size and scope of government.”