Midwest economic survey index slips but still called healthy

Apr 4, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Economic conditions in nine Midwest and Plains states remains healthy, despite a slight slip in a monthly survey of business supply managers, an economist said in a report released Monday.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report said the overall economic index for the region dropped to 60.1 in March from 60.5 in February. It's the first index decline in five months.

However, "the overall index over the past several months indicates a healthy regional manufacturing economy and points to positive growth for both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing through the third quarter of this year," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

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.

Economic optimist remained high, although the index declined slightly to 70.2 in March from 71.3 in February.

The jobs outlook was among the encouraging signs. The March employment index soared to 62.6 from February's 55.6.

"This is the highest employment gauge recorded since May of 2006," Goss said. "Even though the nonmanufacturing sector of the regional economy continues to outperform the manufacturing sector, that gap is closing."

The regional new export orders index fell to a still healthy 61.6 last month from 63.6 in February, and the import index climbed to 62.8 from February's 54.1.

"An expanding regional economy pushed buying from abroad higher for the month," Goss said. "Recent declines in the value of the U.S. dollar and expanding global economic conditions have stimulated new export orders for the month."