Survey: Economy sees improvement in rural parts of 10 states

Published 1:07 pm Thursday, September 17, 2020

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OMAHA, Neb. — The economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states is seeing some improvements but remains weak, according to a new monthly survey of bankers in the region.

The Rural Mainstreet Survey’s overall index remained negative at 46.9 in September, even though it improved from August’s 44.7 and marked several straight months of continued improvement since March, when the index bottomed out for the year at 35.5 as the coronavirus pandemic emerged. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy.

More bankers showed optimism about the economy’s outlook over the next six months, with the survey’s confidence index rising to 50.0 from August’s 44.6.

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“Recent improvements in agriculture commodity prices, federal stimuli and Federal Reserve record low interest rates have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet Economy,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. “Bank CEOs estimated that farm income, including government support, was down only 1.5% from this time last year.”

But fewer than 1 in 4 bankers reported that their local economies were back to levels before the outbreak.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Farmland prices declined to 45.0 in September from August’s 50.0, while the farm equipment sales index slipped to 32.1 from 32.8 in August.