OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — 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 Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, 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.
The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below that suggests decline.
The survey's prices-paid index grew to 71.6 in January from December's 63.6. That suggests wholesale inflation pressure will increase in the months ahead.
The inventory index, which tracks the amount raw materials and supplies businesses have on hand, increased to 53.2 in January from December's 51.3. Goss said that suggests businesses are more optimistic about the economy and the chances for increased sales.
The other components of January's overall index for the region were:
— The export index declined to 54.9 from December's 55.6.
— The import index improved to 52.4 in January from 47.2.
— New order index grew to 58.5 from 57.4 in December.
— Production or sales index increased to 64.7 in January from 56.8.
— And delivery lead time increased to 55.6 from December's 52.
Creighton University economic reports: http://bit.ly/IAwEDt