Predicting economic trends is complex and tricky. It’s also exactly the sort of information that businesses need to plan and grow.
UNL’s Bureau of Business Research is expanding its lineup of forecasts and indices to help businesses, policymakers and researchers better plan and evaluate economic influences.
“We’re focused on factors that influence the long-run growth of the economy,” said UNL economist Eric Thompson, the bureau’s director. “The knowledge that we’re developing – our findings – are useful not just in Nebraska but across the country.”
For example, the bureau’s State Entrepreneurship Index assesses the level of entrepreneurial activity in all 50 states to help measure state economic health. The index not only determines business formation rates, it also evaluates average income creation of new businesses. This helps states know how innovative they are at producing successful, high-value businesses.
In collaboration with UNL economist David Rosenbaum, the bureau recently began studying the economic consequences of weatherization and energy savings loan programs, looking at such factors as job creation, pollution reduction and improved home fire safety.
To help strengthen Nebraska businesses, the bureau also began publishing Leading Economic Indicators in conjunction with UNL’s Department of Economics. These forecasts project Nebraska’s economy six months into the future to better understand factors affecting economic conditions and to help businesses plan. Soon, these reports also will include subregions, such as Omaha, Lincoln and several rural areas.
The bureau also is developing a State Human Capital Index to track how quickly states are building this key component.
Thompson said the bureau’s research also benefits UNL’s faculty and students. “It’s not just that we’re producing something cool about the economy, we’re also doing the university’s business of research and education.”