Omaha business leaders "cautiously optimistic"

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November 17th, 2010

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Omaha, NE – Omaha’s business leaders are “cautiously optimistic” about the city’s economic future. And the city may be rebounding better than the rest of the country from the nation’s complex financial meltdown.

That’s according to Elizabeth MacDonald, a long-time business and finance reporter for, previously, Forbes Magazine, and currently, the Fox Business Network.

MacDonald addressed a packed hall of Omaha business leaders at the Qwest Center Wednesday, Nov. 17. The gathering marked the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s release of its annual Economic Outlook Survey. According to that report, Chamber members are somewhat optimistic that business is recovering from the great recession of 2008. 70% say business is up compared to last year, and 51% expect sales revenue to climb in 2011. But they also cited concern about future fiscal policy and regulatory issues that could “dampen growth.” MacDonald shared that concern, equating the Fed’s push to inject billions of dollars into the economy to adding injury to a sick patient, and saying Congress is “smoking in bed” while the “house is on fire.” But, MacDonald said, overall, she’s confident “we will get out.”

“It’s going to take, I think, three more years for the economy to fully recover… but I know the good people of Omaha is why America is going to pull out of one of the worst downturns we’ve seen since the Great Depression.”

Omaha’s business leaders’ cautious optimism may not translate immediately to job seekers though. The majority of business owners in the report, 60 percent, said they expect to maintain their current employment levels next year, with only 28% saying they expect to hire. Economist Christopher Decker, an economist with the University of Nebraska at Omaha who contributed to the report, writes he doubts that unemployment in Omaha will return to pre-recession levels by the end of next year, but he does think the city will add enough jobs to get down from the current 5% unemployment to the 3.5 to 4% range. Another encouraging sign, he writes, is that productivity levels may have climbed as high as they’re going to go. That means employers may have asked their workers to do “more with less” about as much as they can stretch it.

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