Good Wages Attract Commuters to County

4 Oct 2016

A recent Targeted Industry Study compiled for PCDC identified seven categories of business and industry that PCDC should target in its recruitment efforts. Along with the process, the study revealed some interesting facts about residents and workers in the county.

The study proved what many in Phelps County already knew – that the county is comprised of hard-working people and has a low poverty level. But, some other findings might come as a surprise, including that the county offers above-average wages and is a large importer of workers.

PCDC officials think this shows opportunity for population growth in the county and makes for an attractive location for potential businesses.

Here are some of the key findings of the report, compiled by NPPD Economist Kenneth M. Lemke:

1. Phelps County jobs provide relatively high compensation when compared to jobs requiring compatible skills in neighboring counties. This is indicated by the fact that Phelps County is a larger importer of labor and has 640 (or 16.2 percent) more primary jobs within the county that residents working at primary jobs.

2. Phelps and Hall counties (91.4 percent) are the only area counties (among 11 counties) where the number of jobs exceed 90 percent of the local population in the prime working ages of 15-64. This information confirms the relatively high importance of imported labor to Phelps and Hall counties.

3. 94.2 percent of Phelps County residents 25 years and older have at least a high school diploma. This is higher than the other rural counties (91.6 percent average) and higher than the state average of 90.5 percent. Phelps County also has a higher percentage of residents age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher (23.8 percent) than the average of the other rural counties (19.8 percent).

4. The Phelps County labor force is relatively well compensated. Data from 2014 shows Phelps County’s median household income is $51,396 and is higher than five of the other six rural counties. Phelps County per capita income of $27,126 is higher than all of the other counties in the study area and 99.2 percent of the state average of $27,399.

5. One contributor to the high level of compensation earned in the Phelps County labor force is the large percentage, 64.3 percent, of the population ages 16-64 are working at least 35 hours per week. This is the highest of any of the counties in the study and much higher than the state average of 55.2 percent and the national average of 47.1 percent.

6. Of the 4,590 primary jobs in Phelps County, 52.6 percent (or 2,414 employees) are filled by Phelps County residents. The remainder commute from Buffalo County (6.5 percent or 300 workers), Harlan County (5.1 percent or 232 workers), Kearney County (3.9 percent or 232 workers), Dawson County (3.6 percent or 164 workers) and other counties.

7. Of the 3,950 Phelps County residents working in primary jobs, 61.1 percent (2,413) work in Phelps County; 9 percent (357) work in Buffalo County; 3.4 percent (135) work in Lancaster County; 3.3 percent (131) work in Dawson County; 2.5 percent (97) work in Adams County and the remainder work in other counties across the state.

8. Phelps County’s population declined by 560 people (or 5.7 percent) from 2000 to 2014 from 9.747 to 9.187. However, six surrounding rural counties experienced even greater declines with an 8.1 percent population decline during the same period.

Population make-up of Phelps County

Age group 14 and younger – 1,849 or 20.1 percent

15-24 is 1,072 or 11.7 percent

25-54 is 3,191 or 34.7 percent

55-64 is 1,212 or 13.2 percent

65 plus is 1,860 or 20.3 percent

For more about the targeted industry study, watch for the October edition of the Phelps County Business Journal. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please email PCDC Administrative Assistant Stacy Pafford at