Nebraska employment lags in the key professional, scientific and technical services sector.
The finding is part of a new report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research.
The professional, scientific and technical services sector is the fastest-growing high-wage sector of the U.S. economy and includes information technology and commercial scientific research, as well as engineering and business consulting services. The industry employs college graduates and holders of advanced degrees. Average weekly wages in the industry reached $1,800 nationwide during 2018.
Nebraska lags the nation in terms of the size of its professional and technical sector, the report shows. Such employment made up 4.44% of Nebraska employment compared with 6.23% nationwide. This is one of the largest gaps in the employment structure of Nebraska and the nation.
The sector’s employment grew by 8.59% in Nebraska between 2009 and 2018, compared with 22.89% nationwide, according to the report.
“Nebraska’s slower growth is partly the result of Nebraska’s urban structure, characterized by small and mid-size metropolitan areas and a large non-metropolitan population,” said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research.
Nebraska, however, underperforms in the industry even after adjusting for city size, Thompson said. The share of the sector’s employment is smaller in Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island than in peer metropolitan areas around the country, he said.
“Economic development policy in Nebraska should continue to support growth in (professional, scientific and technical services) employment,” Thompson said. “Faster growth in the industry would raise household income, per capita tax revenue and support the retention of college graduates.”
Policies to promote employment in the sector include increased training of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers, an improved tax and regulatory environment for small-service businesses and improvements in quality of life, which make the state more attractive to college graduates.