Survey suggests more economic growth for Midwest, Plains

Published 9:09 am Saturday, March 2, 2019

OMAHA, Neb.  — The Mid-America Business Conditions Index in February hit its highest level since September, signaling solid economic growth over the next three to six months for nine Midwest and Plains states, according to a report issued Friday.

The index rose to 57.9 last month from 56.0 in January, the report said. The September figure was 57.5.

“The regional economy continues to expand at a positive pace,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey of supply managers.

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“However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers and international trade tension/tariffs remain an impediment to even stronger growth.”

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The regional trade numbers for February were solid, the report said. The new export orders index moved higher, to 55.6 last month from January’s 48.3, and the import index rose to 54.8 from 54.4 in January.

“Surprisingly, almost one-fourth of supply managers support raising tariffs even more on the import of Chinese goods,” Goss said. “An almost equal percentage support reducing tariffs on Chinese imports.”

Economic optimism was up last month, as reflected by the confidence index jump of more than 5 percentage points to reach 58.8.

“However, I expect business confidence to depend heavily on trade talks with China,” Goss said.

The employment picture also brightened in the February survey. The employment index climbed a half point to 59.0 from 58.5 in January.

“Overall manufacturing employment growth in the region over the past 12 months has been very healthy and exceeded that of the nation,” Goss said. “I expect this gap to close in the months ahead as regional job growth slows more than national manufacturing job growth.”