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Regional economy continues to grow, survey says

Updated: 2014-02-03T23:19:12Z

Staff and news service reports

A new survey of business leaders released Monday signals the economy should continue growing in nine Midwestern and Plains states in the months ahead.

The monthly economic index for the region rose to 57.7 last month, compared with 53.2 in December. That puts the index well above a neutral score of 50 and into positive territory.

Looking six months ahead, the business confidence index declined to a still strong 62.2 from 66.5 in December.

“Gains for durable-goods manufacturers more than offset losses for nondurable-goods producers in the region. The region has now gained back all job losses during the recession,” Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said.

The survey covers Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

More hiring may be on the way, because the employment index improved to 56.4 in January from December’s 48.7. Goss said the region’s labor force is already at its highest level ever.

Business conditions in January also improved in Kansas and Missouri. However, the two states, along with Arkansas, are the only ones in the region that have yet to return to prerecession employment levels, the survey said.

Goss said he expected employment levels in Kansas to return to prerecession levels by the end of this year. He said Missouri jobs would not be back to fourth-quarter-2007 levels until the first half of 2015.

Also Monday, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its national index of manufacturing activity fell to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December. It was the lowest reading since May, though any reading above 50 signals growth. Manufacturers said export orders grew at a healthy pace but slightly less than in the previous month.

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