Lincoln (Neb.) - April 30, 1999 - If current trends continue, the first decade of the 21st century could see a growing loss of younger workers from Nebraska's 52 "most rural" counties.
That's according to an article in the April edition of Business in Nebraska, the newsletter of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration.
In the article, Lisa Darlington, assistant director of the bureau, explored potential gaps between the working-age population and the number of available nonfarm jobs in the "most rural" counties and other factors that might contribute to working-age outmigration in those counties (which lack towns larger than 2,500 population).
Using data from the Nebraska Department of Labor and Bureau of Business Research population projections, Darlington predicted that the counties' labor force will increase from 77,426 in 1997 to 83,415 in 2010 and the number of nonfarm jobs will increase from 53,773 to 58,600. Assuming that the unemployment rate in the counties remains at the 2.7 percent they averaged in 1997, Darlington said more than 23,000 workers in those counties in 2010 will either have to commute or relocate to other counties.
There is no direct answer to the question of which option the workers will chose, Darlington said. But when the worker surplus in the 52 counties is compared to the combined worker deficit of nearly 730,000 expected in 2010 in the metro areas of Lincoln, Omaha, Sioux City, Iowa, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Denver, the choice for many will be clear.
"If current trends continue, the deficit in jobs available to the prime working-age population in most rural counties will not diminish over the next decade," Darlington concluded. "Residents of most rural counties will continue to commute to other areas of the state for employment. In addition, the expanding shortages of workers in metro areas in and around Nebraska, combined with the lure of expanded benefits and higher wages, may lead to increased outmigration on the part of most rural residents, particularly those in the younger half of the working-age population."
Indeed, population projections from the Bureau of Business
Research predict a 31 percent decline from 1997 to 2010 for the
most rural counties in the 35-49 age group, a group that is now
in its 20s and 30s. Population growth of 36 percent is expected
from 1997 to 2010 in both the 50-64 and 20-34 age groups. For the
most part, those who will be in those age groups in 2010 are at
present those who are already established in the work force and
their minor children.
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