Omaha Nebraska

An evening view of the Omaha, Nebraska skyline from the Gene Leahy Mall.

(The Center Square) – In the early weeks of 2021, it wasn’t clear which way Nebraska’s economy was headed as it emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, experts worried. The answer now appears to be clearer.

The state’s economic indicators rose “sharply” in April, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It was the seventh consecutive increase, the university said.

The 1.96% jump in April was caused by strong business expectations, increasing manufacturing activity and airline travel and a drop in the U.S. dollar, which lowers the cost of Nebraska products overseas, said Eric Thompson, director of the university’s Bureau of Business Research.

“It was a good report,” Thompson told The Center Square. “A number of the components in the leading indicator were positive.”

About half the increase was from increased optimism by business owners who expect higher sales and payrolls over the next six months, Thompson said.

“The leading indicator has been rising during the last seven months, but it’s been rising more sharply in the last few months,” he said. “I think it’s a good sign that Nebraska’s economy will grow at a strong rate for the rest of the year.”

Economic growth can be expected after a recession, Thompson said.

“We are still down 15,000 to 20,000 jobs,” he said. “We need strong economic growth to get back to normal here in our state.”

Nebraska’s economy is turning out to be one of the strongest in the nation coming out of the pandemic, Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber, told The Center Square.

“There are a lot of reasons for that,” he said. “One is that just the nature of our culture. The state comes together in really difficult times whether it’s floods or pandemics.”

Gov. Pete Rickets did not completely shut down Nebraska as other states did, Slone said.

“That was huge,” he said.

Personal security and a good place to raise a family are increasingly important to young people, Slone said. Nebraska offers both, he said.

“I have high expectations for the economic durability and stability of our economy in Nebraska for some time to come,” Slone said.