Last week David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, presented a fascinating look into Grand Island’s future using demographic data and trending.

Drozd was the keynote speaker at the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting at Riverside Golf Club last week.

The importance of accurate Census counts in advance of the 2020 Census was stressed. Counting everyone will be essential for two overarching reasons — “money and power,” according to Drozd. Federal funding of social programs is directly tied to population and congressional representation (power) is especially important in Nebraska as continued population growth will be necessary for the state to maintain its three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The trending data tells the story of Nebraska’s changing population makeup. Generally, the state is becoming more culturally diverse, older, better educated and better paid.

From a workforce standpoint Nebraska has reached a critical juncture. For the first time in history, elders 75 years and older outnumber children age 5 and younger.

The stats show that Nebraskans are hard at work, with the state’s unemployment rate near the lowest in the U.S. Everyone in the state who wants to work is working. Nebraska ranks first in the U.S. in labor force participation of single mothers with kids under six at 81percent, second for percent of married couples with both working — 61 percent, second for age 55-64 work force participation — 74 percent, third for those 16 to 19 employed — 53 percent, and fourth in the nation for the number of workers with two or more jobs — 8 percent.

Of serious concern is the forecasted decline in prime age workforce, those 25 to 64 years old. This segment of Nebraska’s workforce is at the tipping point with a slow decline projected to occur during the next 10 years. This trend will be played out across nearly all Nebraska counties.

Drozd spoke of the value of Grand Island’s strong growth trend. From 2010 through today, Grand Island has experienced a 6.2 percent increase in population. Drozd noted that one of the reasons why Grand Island and Hall County’s population continues to grow is due to the in-migration of people from some 30 different countries. Without these new residents the population of Grand Island and Hall County would have declined.

Grand Island Independent

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