Area business leaders expect to ring up more sales next year as the strong national economy buoys Omaha-area companies.
More than 70 percent of Omaha-area chief executives in a survey released Tuesday said they expected their sales revenue to grow in 2019.
It’s a reflection of a good economy, according to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which released its annual economic snapshot of the region, heralding the “optimistic outlook” of the company chiefs who responded to the survey.
“Last year was a big jump,” one survey respondent said of the increase in revenue at his company. “I think we’ll have another significant increase this year.”
That reflects trends in the national economy: It grew at a 3.5 percent clip in the third quarter of this year, according to government estimates released last month — up from 2.8 percent in the third quarter of last year. In the third quarter of 2016, the economy inched forward at a 1.9 percent pace.
As the economic picture has brightened, companies have brought more employees on board, a trend that looks to continue into 2019, according to the CEOs who responded to the Omaha chamber’s survey.
Just about half of Omaha-area chief executives said in the survey that they expected to hire new workers in 2019. The survey gathered responses from 147 local company leaders.
Still, with an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent in the Omaha area, some employers could find it tough to find qualified workers.
Indeed, one respondent said that it was “tough finding all the talent that we need.” Even so, “we’ll be increasing employees,” he said.
Business leaders recently have flagged the Omaha area’s labor pool as a concern. A low unemployment rate is seen as a positive, and in many respects it is. But when nearly everyone who wants a job has a job, it can be tough to lure new companies to town — and tough to staff existing companies as they grow.
[Read more: The problem with Omaha’s low unemployment rate]
For perspective, a decade ago, in 2009, the Omaha-area unemployment rate topped 5 percent as the country was submerged in a financial crisis and recession.
The Omaha area has rebounded strongly, and its unemployment rate is one of the lowest among big cities nationally, according to federal data.
That has caused some worry: In a survey last week by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, businesses for the first time flagged concerns about the workforce as their top issue: 29 percent of respondents to the October Survey of Nebraska Business reported that the availability and quality of labor was their top issue.
“In a stronger economy, businesses grow increasingly concerned about securing an adequate workforce,” said Eric Thompson, the UNL economist who is the bureau’s director. Five hundred Nebraska businesses were surveyed in the UNL study; 155 responded.
Research by the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City flagged concern about the tight labor markets in Nebraska, too, saying that companies’ challenges finding workers could be putting a brake on the state’s economic growth. Statewide, unemployment recently clocked in at 2.8 percent.
The CEOs who took the Omaha chamber’s survey said the most important areas when it comes to expanding their businesses in 2019 were labor availability, labor costs and the costs of providing benefits for employees.
The chamber’s survey will be released Tuesday at the its annual economic outlook luncheon. There, Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine and a “futurist,” was set to talk about adapting businesses to technological and political change.