Bureau of Business Research


Date of this Version



A Bureau of Business Economic Research Report From the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Prepared for The City of Omaha. Used by permission.


The Omaha area is in a period of sustained expansion. Population, employment, housing stock, and commercial and industrial space are growing together both in the City of Omaha and in surrounding communities and counties. This pattern of growth is likely to continue over the next few decades, but the pace and nature of growth is in question. In particular, it is unclear whether growth in the Omaha area will accelerate from its current pace, or moderate. Also in question is the degree to which growth will occur in core counties like Douglas and Sarpy or suburban and exurban areas of neighboring counties.

To address these questions, the City of Omaha contracted with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research to prepare a long-term outlook for the Omaha Area economy. This report updates previous studies by the Bureau of Business Research that provided an economic outlook for the Omaha area. Following up on the most recent study in 2003, we estimate growth in a 12-county region in both Nebraska and Iowa through the year 2050. The region includes Douglas, Sarpy, and 6 other adjacent Nebraska Counties, and Pottawattamie County and 3 adjacent Iowa counties.

Our analysis begins by tracking the progress of the Omaha area economy over the last few decades and by studying a group of peer metropolitan areas from the middle-part of the United States. Omaha’s recent performance has been characterized by strong employment growth, and a moderate tendency for population to diffuse outward within the Omaha area. The latter point must be tempered, however, with the observation that the central county of the Omaha area (Douglas) has continued to add population at a healthy rate, in contrast to the pattern in some metropolitan areas.

Figure ES.1 shows an example of the strength of the Omaha economy. The figure shows manufacturing job growth in the Omaha area and the United States. Omaha has had periods of both job loss and job gain from 1990 to 2006, but has consistently outperformed the nation. There were only two years out of the 17-year period when national employment grew faster. This is the sort of consistent strength we has seen in many of Omaha’s key industries. Along with the relative strength of key industries such as manufacturing, there has been rapid growth in employment in services, finance, construction, and retail trade industries. The net result is that the Omaha metropolitan area has averaged 1.8% employment growth since 1969.