New Trend Report Shows Opportunity for Population Growth

New Trend Report Shows Opportunity for Population Growth Main Photo

28 Jul 2021

Phelps County draws 43 percent of its workforce from other counties, according to the recently-released Economic and Demographic Trends report prepared by NPPD.

PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery sees that number as opportunity knocking.

“The worker inflow presents an opportunity for population growth if we can convert commuters into residents, which sends positive ripples throughout the economy,” he said.

The report contains detailed data on employment, commuting patterns and economic and demographic data trends for Phelps County. Tillery said the report helps PCDC refine workforce development strategies and identify opportunities or weaknesses that need to be addressed.


The report shows that 62.8% of Holdrege workers remain in Phelps County for work, while 37.2% of workers leave the county to work. Of the total number of workers living in Phelps County, 9.8 percent (256 workers) commute to Buffalo County. Phelps County residents tend to commute to larger employment markets. Below are the counties and number of Phelps County residents who commute to those counties.

  • Buffalo County – 256
  • Lancaster County – 98
  • Hall County – 84
  • Kearney County – 71
  • Adams County – 63

On the flip side, 1,546 workers commute into Phelps County to work. Below are the counties where they commute from and the number of workers:

  • Buffalo County – 200
  • Harlan County – 115
  • Dawson County – 108
  • Kearney County – 90
  • Furnas County – 66

The majority of Phelps County people who work travel less than 10 miles to work (60.7 percent), but 20.1 percent travel more than 50 miles to work.

Jobs in construction grew the most of any sector in Phelps County between 2009-2019. According to the report, 108 new construction jobs were added during that time bringing the total number of construction workers to 272 in 2019. Manufacturing showed a loss of 86 jobs over that 10-year period, but that number will change drastically as BD and Allmand are planning to hire more than 130 employees this year.

Phelps County’s unemployment rate was at 2.6 percent in 2019.


The Phelps County population has remained nearly steady over the past 50 years. In 1970, the population was 9,553 while in 2019, it was 9,034. Compared to other area counties, Phelps County fared better. Among surrounding counties, Furnas County saw the biggest population loss of 2,221 people over the past five decades. Franklin County lost 1,587 people over the same timeframe and now has a population of 2,979. Kearney County, like Phelps, saw smaller losses.

The biggest population increases occurred in Buffalo County, which grew from 31,222 people in 1970 and to 49,659 in 2019 and Dawson County, which grew from 19,771 people in 1970 to 23,595 in 2019.

Among individual communities in Phelps County, Holdrege was the only community that lost population. In 1970, the population was 5,635 and in 2019, it was 5,408. All other communities posted small increases in population over the past 50 years. Funk grew by 40 people, Loomis grew by 53, Atlanta by 31 and Bertrand by 47.

Tillery said the growth in the smaller Phelps County towns could be attributed to lower housing costs in those towns.

The population of Phelps County is significantly older than Nebraska as a whole. The median age is 41.5 while the median age of Nebraska residents is 36.8. Phelps County’s largest population group is in the 35-54 age category (22.4%) followed by ages 65 and older (21.2%).


Phelps County’s per capita income is estimated at $32,864, which is slightly higher than the state average of $32,302. The median household income for Phelps County residents is $59,040 compared to $61,439 for Nebraska as a whole.

The entire Phelps County Economic and Demographic Trends report can be viewed on PCDC’s website at: