December 14, 2023

Nebraska expected to see fragile growth in high-interest economy

Bureau of Business Research releases three-year forecast

A male barista hands a woman a cup of coffee.


The Nebraska economy is expected to expand modestly over the next two years before accelerating in 2026, according to the new forecast from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research and the Nebraska Business Forecast Council.

“While the economy will benefit from real wage growth, high interest rates are expected to slow state economic growth in 2024 and 2025,” said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research and K.H. Nelson Professor and chair of economics at Nebraska.

“There also will be an elevated risk of recession over the next two years as the impacts of high interest rates continue to work their way through the economy, slowing consumer spending and business investment,” Thompson said. “Policy mistakes are another potential risk. The U.S. must avoid recent tendencies to embrace a ‘shortage economy,’ featuring over-regulation of energy and labor markets and restrictions on trade and immigration.”

Employment is expected to grow 0.6% in Nebraska next year.

Employment growth will also be modest in 2025 at 0.7%, before accelerating to 0.9% in 2026.

Job growth in the next two years will be concentrated in the services industry, which includes business services, health care, and leisure and hospitality. There also will be solid job growth in the construction industry and nondurable goods manufacturing, which includes food manufacturing.

Job growth will be limited in retail and wholesale trade, durable goods manufacturing and the public sector.

“Slow growth in the labor force will make it difficult to add labor in industries with modest wages,” Thompson said.

The outlook is positive for Nebraska agriculture. The state’s farm income was about $8 billion this year, nearly a record. Farm income is expected to fall to about $7 billion next year due to a drop in crop insurance payments. However, it will remain near that total in both 2025 and 2026 as agricultural commodity prices and input costs fall slightly. Nebraska farm income remains high by historical standards due to strong crop and livestock prices and rising production. Farm income from 2024 to 2026 will primarily reflect earned income, as federal government payments will be limited.

Given modest job growth, Nebraska nonfarm income will grow by 3.6% next year, slightly above the expected 3% rate of inflation. It will grow by 3.6% in 2025 and 3.8% in 2026, even as the expected rate of inflation falls, to 2.5% in 2025 and 2% in 2026.

“Nebraska job growth will be sufficient to support growing real incomes in the state,” Thompson said.

The Nebraska Business Forecast Council is composed of David Dearmont, Nebraska Department of Economic Development; Mitch Herian, Bureau of Business Research; Scott Hunzeker, Nebraska Department of Labor; Scott Loseke, Nebraska Public Power District; Brad Lubben, Department of Agricultural Economics at Nebraska; Hoa Phu Tran, Nebraska Department of Revenue; Melissa Trueblood, Nebraska Public Power District; and Thompson.