For the second consecutive month, Nebraska businesses grew less optimistic about the short-term economic outlook, according to the latest monthly survey conducted by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“The business outlook was mixed during October, with businesses expecting a small decline in sales and a modest increase in employment over the next six months,” said UNL economist Eric Thompson, the Bureau’s director.
Specifically, the October survey showed that 27 percent of respondents expect sales to rise over the next six months, while 30 percent expect sales to decline.
Ten percent of businesses expect to grow employment compared to 7 percent who expect to reduce it.
“The mixed outlook suggests weak economic growth in Nebraska during the first quarter of 2016,” said Thompson.
Customer demand was the most common business concern, cited by 33 percent of respondents. The quality and availability of labor was cited second most often, chosen by 18 percent of respondents. Thirteen percent of respondents chose taxes as their top business concern. This is a much larger share than in recent month and may indicate a growing concern about state and local taxes in Nebraska.
The surveys are sent each month to 500 randomly selected Nebraska businesses. In October, 145 businesses responded, for a response rate of 29 percent. Thompson combined September and October 2015 responses to analyze economic trends by region.
“An rural-urban divide has re-emerged in survey responses,” according to Thompson. Southeast Nebraska (including Lincoln) was the most optimistic region while the outlook was pessimistic in Central Nebraska. The outlook was mixed in the Omaha, Northeast and West regions.