Busy cash registers at the end of the year sparked the Nebraska economy, setting the stage for continued growth in 2011.


Busy cash registers at the end of the year sparked the Nebraska economy, setting the stage for continued growth in 2011.

“By the end of the year, Nebraska’s economy was beginning to shake off the sluggishness of the recovery,” said Jason Henderson, Omaha branch executive with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Businesses started seeing stronger sales activity, and they turned it into employment gains.”

Jobs at retail stores spiked in December as holiday shoppers turned out in force across the state. Professional, business, education and health care firms also added positions at a solid clip, pushing Nebraska’s unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the nation, even lower.

Rural Nebraska continued to be a driver of the state’s recovery. Larger farm incomes translated to sales on rural Main Streets and helped propel Nebraska farmland values to record highs.

Growing global food demand also fueled activity at Nebraska factories, leading to increased overtime and wages. More shipments of manufactured and agricultural goods in the fourth quarter meant semi-truck drivers were in demand and warehouses were busier.

Construction activity remained Nebraska’s biggest economic headwind. Commercial construction faced a thin pipeline of new projects, and residential homes sales, home prices and building activity fell at the end of the year without the support of the homebuyer tax credit. Construction activity could improve in the coming months.

 “The economic strength of Nebraska will continue,” said Henderson, “especially if the national and global economies continue to pick up, boosting the demand for Nebraska goods and services.”