By JOSH FUNK
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s population grew modestly again this year, but it might not be enough to protect all three of the state’s U.S. House seats after the 2020 Census.
The new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday show that the state’s population grew to 1.896 million by July 1 of this year. That’s an increase of 13,210 over last year’s estimate of 1.883 million. The state’s population increased roughly 0.7 percent over last year.
The national population grew about 0.8 percent to 321.4 million between last year and this year.
Nebraska’s population has grown for 28 years in a row. The state could wind up losing one of its Congressional districts if it grows more slowly than other states, but the growth over the first half of the decade is encouraging, said David Drozd, research coordinator for the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research.
“This year’s relatively good population growth near the U.S. average keeps Nebraska in a good position to keep all three seats, and moves us a step closer to 2020, reducing the amount of time over which large shifts in population trends might occur,” Drozd said.
Nebraska had the 21st-highest population growth rate this year, which Drozd said is much better than where the state usually ranks, in the low to mid 30s.
Nebraska’s growth rate was also better than the nearby comparable states of Iowa and Kansas. Iowa’s population grew 0.5 percent to 3.12 million. Kansas grew 0.3 percent to 2.91 million.
But Nebraska’s population could also be affected by changes in the works at a couple major employers.
Since the population estimate was completed in July, ConAgra Foods announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs in Omaha and move 300 jobs to its new headquarters in Chicago.
Outdoor gear retailer Cabela’s is also facing pressure from an activist investor, and that company has said it is considering major changes that could affect its employment in the state. Cabela’s is based in Sidney, and its credit card unit is based in Lincoln.
If those business changes prompt a significant number of Nebraska residents to leave the state in search of work, that could offset the modest growth the state sees each year.